The F-15 Eagle is arguably one of the greatest fighter jets ever built. It’s fast, it’s maneuverable and it packs a hell of a punch. Just ask the Israeli Air Force, who’ve used it to great effect in a variety of roles, especially having never lost a single airframe in air-to-air combat (the Eagle has a perfect air combat record). However, the Eagle’s age is showing. Well, to be fair, it was designed around the same time Pink Floyd was in the process of recording their Dark Side of the Moon album… in case you’re unwilling to do the math, that’s over 40 years ago. And it looks like the United States Air Force wants to eke out another thirty-ish years from their F-15C/D/E airframes.
Though the Eagle is still an extremely powerful fighter, even today, the USAF envisioned replacing it with an even more powerful air superiority fighter before it got too old, and the rest of the world (namely the Soviet Union/Russia and China) caught up with the aircraft and built something equivalent of their own. Thus, the F-22 Raptor was born and the US cemented its place as a full generation ahead of the world. And then politics and cost-cutting happened. Though the Raptor was originally supposed to be a fleet-wide replacement for the Eagle, the US Department of Defense scaled back purchases to 195 airframes totally, eight of which were only built for test and evaluation purposes. This is considerably less than the figure quoted by former AF secretary F. Whitten Peters of around 341 Raptors, which itself was drastically cut down from the original purchase quantity of 750. Since the Air Force today fields less than 190 combat-ready Raptors, the Eagles are now stuck in service for the foreseeable future… at least until the Air Force’s 6th-generation fighter makes its own appearance around 2025-2030.
According to the Peggy Hollinger of the Financial Times, BAE Systems will replace the AN/ALQ-135 Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite with the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS), as part of the multibillion-dollar deal, which will see Boeing function as the primary contractor. EPAWSS will upgrade and add to the aircraft’s onboard sensors, improving threat detection and countermeasure deployment on hundreds of F-15Cs and F-15E Strike Eagles across the Air Force. FlightGlobal.com, referencing a released Air Force budgetary document, stated that EPAWSS will include “an ability to detect and circumvent detection from infrared-based sensors”. A number of combat coded Eagles have already been upgraded with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar systems, and the ability to field the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS). Additional upgrades will include a cockpit modernization with new multifunction displays.