The Lockheed-Boeing Battle over the Hearts (and Pockets) of the US Gov’t & Congress

Two fighter aircraft, Lockheed Martin's F-35 and Boeing's F-15EX, fight over US government procurement budgets

US Air Force F-3s and South Korean F-15s during a joint exercise (Photo: AP)

A dogfight with no guns or bombs is currently underway between giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing, between their F-35 and F-15EX fighter aircraft. The two manufacturers and two fighters are locked in a dogfight over the survival of the industries, namely – over US administration procurement.

Defense One commentators, reviewing the battle between the two fighters, have commented a few days ago that for the first time since 2002, members of Congress suggested the acquisition of F-15EX fighters for USAF, even though a week earlier, senior USAF officers stated that they were not interested in the F-15s as they were fourth-generation fighters, and the USAF must acquire fifth-generation fighters, namely – F-35s, which offer more advanced technology.

Members of Congress suggested the acquisition of eight F-15EX fighters in 2020 plus 80 more in 2024, while the Pentagon is interested in acquiring 78 F-35 fighters in 2020, of which 48 will go to USAF. The Pentagon argues that it would be preferable to upgrade hundreds (probably 400) aging F-15 Eagle fighters. Lockheed Martin responded promptly by releasing a document that attempted to prove that the operational and financial characteristics of the fifth-generation F-35 fighters would be preferable to the upgrading of old fighter aircraft.

Lockheed Martin claims, once again, that the price of an F-35 fighter will be the same as, or even lower than the price of an F-15EX fighter. Boeing's response: the F-35 fighters were not designed to compete with the air-to-air combat capabilities of the F-15 platform. They are suitable for a range of other missions for which no other fighter aircraft is suitable.

Five Republican senators, all of whom enjoy good connections with Lockheed Martin and the constituencies where the company's facilities are located, sent a letter to President Trump in which they expressed their objection to the acquisition of F-15EX fighters. According to them, the full appropriations for the manufacture of F-35 fighters should be approved as "The F-35 is the most affordable, lethal, and survivable air dominance fighter."

The budget of the US armed forces for 2020 includes $11.2 billion for the acquisition of 78 F-35 fighters as well as $1.1 billion for the acquisition of eight F-15EX fighters.