Thursday, February 11, 2021

The F-15EX could match the F-35 in sensor fusion...only displays keep it from doing so...

 via War On The Rocks

The modern F-15E shows how neatly compartmentalizing fighters into “generations” can be misleading and subconsciously shape our perceptions. Consider the fifth-generation F-35’s much-lauded sensor fusion. This is enabled by computing power, software, sensors, and algorithms; all items with high potential to scale to other platforms — and they have. Despite the hype, the reality is that almost all current fighters have had some form of sensor fusion for the better part of a decade. In fact, the newest, largest, and most capable radar and the highest computing power on a U.S. aircraft aren’t on a fifth-generation fighter — they’re on the F-15E.

In the time I’ve flown the F-15E I’ve seen it progress through seven major operational software updates (called suites) and various hardware upgrades, each more integrated and potent than the last. When the next software upgrade arrives it will have even more sensors and hardware. In fact, the only limitation keeping it from achieving sensor fusion on par with the F-35 is its cockpit displays. As an example of how sequestration and funding instability drive incoherent budget choices, nearly $12 billion in aforementioned F-15E sensor upgrades are still stubbornly pushed through 1980s displays that use cathode-ray tubes to produce low-quality analog video that aren’t even all color, let alone digital, touchscreen, or high-resolution. The impressive F-35 cockpit has all of this, and that makes all the difference. The F-15EX enhanced cockpit displays mirror the newest displays coming to both F/A-18 Block III and F-35 Block 4, mostly because they are all made by the same company.

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