Boeing Gets U.S. Government Approval to Offer F-15EX Fighter Jet to India

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The Boeing company revealed Thursday that Washington had granted it a license to market its latest heavy fighter, the F-15EX, in India.

Seven of the world’s largest fighter makers have already expressed interest in competing for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) ongoing acquisition of 114 medium fighter jets, a contract estimated to be worth $ 20-30 billion. .

Fighter aircraft manufacturers who responded to the IAF’s “Request for Information (RFI)” in 2019 include Boeing with its F / A-18E / F Super Hornet; Lockheed Martin with its single-engine F-21; Saab with its single-engine Gripen E / F, Dassault with its twin-engine Rafale, Eurofighter GmbH with its twin-engine Typhoon and Russia with two twin-engine fighters – RAC MiG-35 and Sukhoi Su-35.

Offering the F-15EX would cause Boeing to withdraw the Super Hornet from the competition. “It is impossible for Boeing to field two fighters in the same competition,” said Pratyush Kumar, who heads the F-15EX project in Saint Louis, United States. Kumar said Boeing is waiting to see the performance requirements of the IAF. Boeing will then decide which fighter plane it will offer.

More likely, Boeing will decide to offer the F-15EX to the IAF, while offering the Super Hornet to the Indian Navy, which is separately pursuing the acquisition of 57 fighters for its aircraft carriers. The US military only uses the Super Hornet as a naval aircraft carrier bridge fighter, although it has sold countries like Australia the F / A-18E / F as a ground fighter.

The F-15 Eagle entered service with the United States Air Force (USAF) in its original form more than four decades ago. However, it has been continuously improved to stay on the cutting edge of technology. The USAF’s confidence in the F-15 platform was underscored in July 2020, when it awarded Boeing a $ 23 billion floating contract for up to 144 F-15EX fighters – the latest version of the F-15. This means that the F-15EX’s maintenance and upgrade programs will continue for at least three decades.

The F-15 Eagle, which is flown by several air forces, including that of Israel, has a formidable air-to-air combat record of 104-0. Along the way, Boeing developed a ground strike version called the Strike Eagle. Now equipped with a new cockpit, Active Scanning Electronic Radar (AESA), integrated electronic warfare suite, and fused sensors and data links, the F-15EX has been transformed into a fighter versatile capable of performing the full range of missions.

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The aerodynamics of the F-15 have always been top of the line. Capable of flying at Mach 2.5 (two and a half times the speed of sound), the F-15EX is the fastest fighter jet in the world. It carried 13.5 tons of weaponry, more than the Rafale or the Sukhoi-30MKI. Its range of 1,200 nautical miles (2,200 kilometers) allows it to strike targets deep inside enemy territory.

Based on publicly available U.S. budget figures, the F-15EX costs $ 80.3 million per fighter, including the cost of its two engines. However, India wants the plane to be built in India, which involves the installation and certification of a new factory and the training of workers. This would greatly increase the cost.

When asked if building the fighter in India would unacceptably increase its cost, Kumar said, “We will sell the F-15EX on the terms and conditions the Indian government wishes to purchase it.”

On Thursday, Boeing also launched the so-called Boeing India Repair Development and Sustainment Hub (BIRDS). This is in effect locating the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of the Boeing platforms used by the Indian military.

India is one of Boeing’s largest global defense customers. It currently operates 11 C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, nine P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and three others on order, 22 Apache AH-64E attack helicopters, of which six are on order and 15 CH heavy lift helicopters. -47F Chinooks.

The BIRDS Hub can also provide support, with the consent of New Delhi, to Boeing platforms in service with other countries in the region. This could significantly increase India’s defense export earnings.

Stating that this “would make India a strategic destination for aerospace engineering, maintenance, repair and maintenance services,” Boeing said BIRDS training programs “would increase the skilled workforce by developing sub-tier providers and medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) to build high quality MRO capacities in India ”.

The purchase of 114 fighters by the IAF follows the cancellation in 2015 of its 2007 call for tenders for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), and the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters as a measure provisional in 2016. Running out of numbers, the IAF has initiated the purchase of 114 medium fighters in an exercise that closely mirrors the MMRCA tender.


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