Air National Guard Raises Concerns About Reduced F-15EX Fleet

U.S. Air Force Boeing F-15EX
Credit: U.S. Air Force

The proposal to truncate the U.S. Air Force’s buy of Boeing F-15EXs could mean the Air National Guard does not have enough new aircraft to replace its aging F-15C/Ds that need to be replaced.

The Air Force in its fiscal 2023 budget request calls for cutting its buy of F-15EXs to 80 from 144, a plan that would limit the number of F-15/D squadrons that could be replaced. ANG head Lt. Gen. Michael Loh says this proposal comes as the Air Force and other stakeholders do not fully understand the capability that the F-15EX will bring. Its advanced radars, Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System, open systems architecture and weapons capacity make the EX far more capable than 1970s-era C and D models.

“We need money, and we need recapitalization. So, well, I know where [Air Force leadership] goes with this and you’ve heard it all. But at the end of the day we’re going to have to figure out how to actually increase the capability and the capacity of the United States Air Force,” Loh said Sept. 21.

Air Force and Defense Department leaders are looking to balance needs over the long-term spending plan, but Loh says it is too early to settle on a specific number of F-15EXs.

“This platform has a lot of capability that we haven’t fully matured,” Loh says. “So from a combatant commander’s capability perspective, we have not done a good job. That will be our challenge over the next couple years and will then drive different conversations.”

The proposed 44% cut to the F-15EX fleet would give the entire service 72 operational fighters, split between three squadrons, and eight for flight test. This would likely mean four current F-15C/D Guard squadrons would not have EX replacements. Loh says his F-15C/D fleet is severely limited because of age, with one aircraft becoming inoperable every six weeks on average.

Air Combat Command boss Gen. Mark Kelly stressed the need for increased capacity across all multirole fighter squadrons, with the F-15EX coming online. The EX fleet will mix in with the F-15E Strike Eagle fleet for long-range, big-munition platforms in the overall fighter fleet as a singular F-15 enterprise.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.