At the beginning of next year, Boeing's F-15X fighter plane will land at the USAF's Eglin Air Force Base for a series of tests. It is an advanced version of the F-15 that will be the leading fighter of the USAF, which has ordered 200 of them.
The X version has the best capabilities available for this kind of fighter, according to Air Force Magazine. It includes fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls, two new weapons stations, a new electronic warfare suite, advanced radar, a hyper-fast computer, conformal fuel tanks and a reinforced structure.
However, it is still a 4th generation fighter, no stealthier than the first F-15s from the early 1970s. A low signature, experts say, is critical today for operations against enemy antiaircraft systems, and thus the F-15X will have to remain far from hostile airspace until those defense systems are destroyed.
The USAF's F-15C/Ds are aging, and in the opinion of the Air Force it is not worthwhile to continue to retain them due to high maintenance costs. As for the cost of the F-15X, Boeing has quoted a cost of $80 million per plane, similar to the F-35 of Lockheed Martin. But the cost for operating an F-35 for one hour is $35,000, whereas the cost of operating the F-15X for one hour is $27,000.
The F-15X will be almost identical to the QA version that was build for Qatar, and it is based on the SA version that was build for Saudi Arabia, a version in which the hydraulic cables will be replaced by the fly-by-wire system.
Boeing says that the F-15X can carry a large amount of weapons and ammunition. The plane was built using the most advanced technologies, and it will be equipped with state-of-the-art missions systems. In addition, it was designed in a manner that enables it to be upgraded. Its wings are being improved, and a fast computer processing capability as well as a fiberoptic network within its body have been added.
An advanced version of the F-15, the F-15I, is a candidate for acquisition by the Israeli Air Force to replace its aging F-15s, apparently in combination with additional F-35 fighters.