F-15EX: The Fighter Jet Built To Take On China?

As the aircraft designed to support America’s fleet of 5th generation stealth fighter jets, the F-15EX Eagle II has big shoes to fill. The time the 4,5th generation fighter jet is ready for operational use nears. But the U.S. Air Force might not be the only customer of the F-15EX.

In early February, the U.S. Department of State approved the sale of the F-15EX Eagle II to Indonesia. The news came shortly after the Indonesian government picked the French Dassault Rafale aircraft as its next fighter jet. But Indonesian military and government officials have indicated that the Rafale might be joined by the F-15EX as the southeast Asian country ramps up military spending in response to Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific.

Boeing F-15EX. Artist Image from Boeing.

Approved For Sale

The Indonesian government had requested to buy up to 36 F-15EX fighter jets (should the sale goes through, the aircraft would have the official designation of F-15ID).

In addition, it requested a plethora of spare parts, including AN/APG-82(v)1 Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radars, AN/ALQ-250 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability Systems (EPAWSS), Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems (JHMCS), AN/AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods (ATP), and Embedded Global Positioning Systems (GPS)/Inertial Navigation System (EGI) security devices.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of an important regional partner that is a force for political stability, and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region. It is vital to U.S. national interest to assist Indonesia in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defense capability,” the State Department said in a press release.

The total cost of the package comes at a hefty $13.9 billion.

“The proposed sale will improve Indonesia’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling it to provide increased deterrence and air defense coverage across a very complex air and maritime domain. Indonesia will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft and equipment into its armed forces. The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the State Department statement added.

But the Indonesian government has already signed a contract for six Dassault Rafales, with the option to purchase an additional 36 for a total of 42 fighter jets. The total cost of that contract comes at $8.1 billion. Should Indonesia decide to buy the F-15EX too, it would have to either buy less Dassault Rafales or commit to an even bigger air force.

The F-15EX

The F-15EX Eagle II is a very interesting and rather unintended aircraft that was developed out of necessity. Seeing with concern the mounting costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the U.S. Air Force decided it needs a “filler” fighter jet to support the 5th generation stealth aircraft and also conduct missions that wouldn’t require the sophistication and advanced capabilities of the F-35. In other words, the F-35 is too expensive to be conducting missions that don’t absolutely require its cutting-edge capabilities, namely the combination of stealth and sensor fusion.

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