Thursday, February 21, 2019

General Frank Gorenc USAF (Ret.) makes the case for the F-15X...

via Real Clear Defense.
Up to this point, the complementary mix of a small but stealthy 5th gen fleet combined with a large fleet of very capable 4thgen fighters has proven adequate in meeting today’s warfighting needs.

Unfortunately, today’s fighter force mix, despite increasing numbers of F-35s over time and upgraded F-22s, will likely not be enough to meet future needs.  Specifically:
  1. Current operations tempo for the entire fighter fleet remains high without any relief in sight.
  2. Future fighter availability will be reduced or restricted due to needed upgrades, including the F-22 and early models of the F-35.  
  3. 4thgen maintenance and operating costs continue to climb, and upgrades are costly, time-consuming and potentially cost may prohibitive.
  4. Adversaries continue to invest in technologies designed to find, fix, target and engage 5thgen fighters.  This will minimize and could totally deny the asymmetric advantages we have today.
  5. 5thgen weapons internal weapons load capacity is limited.
  6. 5thgen procurement will continue to be constrained by production and budget limitations, particularly in the short term.  
  7. 5thgen cost per flying hour (CPFH) is significantly higher than the F-15X, and CPFH for 4th gen fleet is increasing significantly as they get older.

One clear solution to mitigate these challenges is the immediate introduction of Boeing’s F-15X into the current fighter force. While DoD was focused on getting the F-35 IOC and increasing inventory, Boeing continued to improve the capability and capacity of one of the most successful fighters in history. 
The F-15X is a 4th gen ++ fighter that will significantly complement the capabilities of the current fighter force with better sensors, more weapons capacity, reliable data links, and extended range. In addition, the F-15X will provide relief to the 5th gen fleet from missions that do not require stealth but require advanced sensors, weapons, datalinks, and range to optimize effectiveness and survivability.
Story here. 

Read the whole article.  It's fascinating!

My take?  The F-35 has morphed.  In order for the plane to survive they've had to sell its features as being high end.  That and the fact that it's taken so long to develop and is NOT going to meet the promise of being as affordable as current fighters has led to a return to the past.

A high-low mix.

The funny thing is that the USAF envisioned the F-35 as it's low end.  Not anymore.

The reality now is that the high end portion of the mix is the F-22 and F-35. The low end will be so called 4th gen fighters. 

The F-15X will fill that bill.

What bears watching is the T-X program.  The USAF Chief of Staff has stated repeatedly that he needs the F-35 but ALSO that he needs capacity.

Will 260 odd F-15Xs fill the capacity need?  I have my doubts.  So what can flex into at least a few of the roles of the F-16 at a low cost?  My guess is the T-X. 

But what about Lockheed Martin?  The US can't have that manufacturer (despite their bad behavior) go down.  So what do we do?  I'm betting that we will see a US version of the F-21 for India to fill a portion of the low end mix along with the F-15X.

I've taken heat for my claim that the F-35 is headed toward a death spiral. Fair enough.  But one thing is becoming apparent.  You can probably scratch at least a 300-500 of them off the procurement list.  The F-15X is a thing and it's coming.  That alone means fewer F-35A's for the USAF.

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