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Boeing Proposes New Life, Lethality for F-15C Fighter
The F-15 2040C upgrade would double the missile load of the F-15C from eight to 16 missiles and extend its range. (Image: Boeing)
Boeing is proposing an “F-15 2040C” series of upgrades that would extend the life of the fourth-generation F-15C air superiority fighter to complement the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor. The 2040 version would double to 16 the number of air-to-air missiles the fighter carries, extend its range and improve its lethality and survivability with upgraded electronics.
An F-15 2040C would also extend the fighter’s production line in St. Louis, which with 84 F-15SAs destined for Saudi Arabia has firm orders through 2019. Boeing previously offered a stealthy “Silent Eagle” version for South Korea’s F-X III fighter competition, but that country last year settled on the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II for the requirement.
At the recent Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md., Boeing said it has conducted an internal study of upgrading the F-15C to serve as a cohort to Lockheed Martin’s F-22. The U.S. Air Force originally sought as many as 750 F-22s, but the U.S. government ultimately stopped production in 2011 at 187 operational fighters. Boeing now seeks to fill a perceived gap in air superiority capability with an upgraded F-15C.
“There’s a real challenge that the U.S. faces with air superiority because the next generation air dominance platform is not intended to be fielded until the mid-2030s, and it won’t be out there in numbers until roughly the 2040 time frame to start replacing the fleet,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing vice president of F-15 programs. “That means the U.S. Air Force has the F-15s and the F-22s they have today to perform the air superiority mission.”
The F-15 2040C would be a menu offering of F-15 program of record and proposed upgrades. “We’re not providing it as a single proposal to the U.S. Air Force,” said Gibbons, who added that Boeing is providing the service with analysis and cost and time estimates of possible improvements. “We expect if they head down this path, they won’t be left to do it all in one [budget] cycle. It’s very likely this would be a set of upgrades to the jet,” he said.
The package would incorporate the programmed radar upgrade of F-15C/Ds with the Raytheon APG-63(v)3 active electronically scanned radar and a new electronic warfare suite called EPAWSS, for the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System. A proposed long-range infrared search and track sensor pod would complement the AESA radar. Boeing supplies conformal fuel tanks on the multi-role F-15E Strike Eagle; the 2040C upgrade would add them on the F-15C. The proposed weapons load increase would be accomplished by adding a Boeing-developed “quad pack” carriage system on two weapons stations. A communications and networking pod with advanced datalinks, now being demonstrated under the Air Force’s Talon HATE program, would enable the older F-15 to interact with the Raptor and other platforms.
“These are critical capabilities that are not important to the F-15 alone; they’re really a nice complement to what the F-22 has,” Gibbons said. “The F-22 is an incredible platform by itself. When you bring in an F-15 that’s got more weapons, a long-range sensor that is in a different frequency band than what the F-22 carries, the extended range and the connectivity to the F-22 and other systems—that is a huge increase in capability.” Source ainonline.com
The Raytheon APG-63(V)3 is a more modern variant of the company’s APG-63(V)2, and applies the same kind of AESA technology that Raytheon uses in the company’s APG-79 designed for the Navy Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bomber. The APG-63(V)3 has been in service since 2006.
The Raytheon AN/APG-83 radar for the F-15E, meanwhile, combines the processor of the APG-79 radar with the antenna of the APG-63(V)3 AESA being on the F-15C/D. This radar upgrade is part of the F-15E Radar Modernization Program. (RMP). The new radar includes a wideband radome that enables the radar array to operate on more radar frequencies, and has improvements to environmental control and electronic warfare (EW) systems. Source militaryaerospace.com
Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System
Boeing has chosen BAE Systems as the subcontractor to develop EPAWSS, which provides advanced EW capabilities and a “significant growth path” for the F-15, according to an Oct. 1 BAE Systems statement. The system will improve aircraft protection by adding advanced electronic countermeasures, radar warning and increased chaff and flare capability.
“By upgrading to an enhanced all-digital system, the Air Force, in conjunction with the platform prime, Boeing, will provide next-generation electronic warfare capability to F-15C and F-15E aircraft to help keep the platform capable and mission-ready against current and future threats, ” said Brian Walters, vice president and general manager of Electronic Combat Solutions at BAE Systems, according to the BAE statement. Source defensenews.com
The Digital Electronic Warfare System (DEWS) leverages 5th generation technology to provide advanced capabilities for the F-15 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS).
- The U.S. Air Force requires an integrated electronic warfare system to combat the threats of tomorrow- DEWS provides this capability
- DEWS is currently in production, and has been designed for the next generation F-15 fighter jet
- DEWS leverages an extensive history of providing advanced electronic warfare capabilities to U.S. Air Force aircraft
- DEWS improves survivability and enhances mission capability for
- First look, first shot, first kill
- Deeper penetration against modern integrated air defense systems
- Find, fix, target, track, engage and assess
In 2015, Boeing released a video that confirmed at least one of the Palmdale test aircraft (12-1003 – note the serial on the ejection seat) has been employed to trial the new Digital Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (DJHMCS) on the F-15. Boeing Test and Evaluation chief F-15 test pilot Dan ‘Dragon’ Draeger and a ‘USAF Weapons Systems Officer’ were depicted wearing the new helmets for a ‘first evaluation flight’ at Palmdale recently. The new digital JHMCS uses LED technology for ‘greater reliability and visual acuity’, according to the news release. ‘You don’t have to use high voltage in order to drive the new Light Emitting Diode display which improves maintenance reliability significantly,’ says Greg Hardy, Boeing manager, TACAIR Advanced Display Systems. ‘Couple this technology with a sharper image and improved day and night capabilities using color projected video and symbology and a better balanced helmet, and you have an advanced targeting solution that is more reliable and less fatiguing for pilots to wear.’
The DJHMCS is part of the new JHMCS II product line and it is touted as ‘an economical but significant upgrade’ that features ‘all new’ aspects of JHMCS II, but is aimed as a retrofit for existing JHMCS-capable platforms and crucially it incorporates a new night capability.
Many of these new features were planned as part of the stealthy F-15SE Silent Eagle, which failed to attract direct interest from new customers. Indeed, Silent Eagle enhancements may never be fully realized as Boeing was largely relying on customer support to bring these to reality and the loss in South Korea effectively put paid to the key stealthy improvements. The conformal weapons bays (CWBs) were, for example, part of the industrial offset with Korean industry. The CWBs had two doors and two weapon mounts, the upper, side-opening door carrying a rail launcher for an AIM-120 AMRAAM or an AIM-9-type missile, or a launcher for a single 500lb or 1,000lb bomb or two Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs). The lower door accommodated a trapeze-plus-ejector mount for an AIM-120, or for a single 500lb or 1,000lb bomb or two SDBs. The CWBs would also accommodate a small amount of fuel. Having funded an initial test period, including firing an AIM-120 from the CWB in July 2010, Boeing was ready to develop a number of the Silent Eagle options with customer support as prospective buyers came forward.
Although Seoul opted for the F-35, the Saudi deal paved the way for some of the less noticeable elements of the Silent Eagle to come to fruition, notably the advanced cockpit, DFBW, and DEWS. Various elements that have been taken up by Boeing’s export customers over the past decade are now on the table to be offered as upgrades for other existing F-15 customers — including the USAF. Indeed, Boeing is emphasizing the increased weapon carriage offered by the F-15SA as the DFBW opens up the new outer wing stations 1 and 9. However, the handling implications of these outer stations predude non-DFBW Eagles from utilizing them. Source combataircraft.net
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Updated Jan 26, 2017