F-15Cs for Future Ground Attack?

24.02.10

Categorie: Air, David Axe |
Tags: ,

F-15C. Photo by Bryan William Jones.

by DAVID AXE

Just two years ago, the U.S. Air Force expected to buy 381 F-22 Raptors and bring more than 1,700 smaller F-35 Lightning fighters into service beginning around 2013.

With budget cuts, planning shifts and some big program delays, today the Air Force is getting just 187 F-22s and probably around 1,500 F-35s — these a couple years later than originally envisioned.

The changes mean the fighter fleet will start shrinking soon, as old and lightly-built F-16s retire by the hundreds. “That will mean there may be a shortage of tactical aircraft that can deliver air-to-ground weapons,” Lieutenant Colonel Michael Buck, commander of the 186th Fighter Squadron, an F-15C Eagle unit, told Combat Aircraft. To bolster the F-22s and F-35s in the ground-attack role, the air service is borrowing a page from the Navy, which in the late 1990s modified its F-14 fighters to drop bombs. F-15C fighters could be modified as attack planes.

The Air Force already had plans to fit new electronically-scanned radars, helmet sights, launch rails and other advanced gear to 178 of the youngest F-15Cs, which today average around 25 years old. A passive-seeking infrared sensor is also possible. These so-called “Golden Eagles” will fly alongside F-22s on air-superiority missions.

Now, to replace retiring F-16s, Golden Eagles might pick up interfaces, software and mods to their new wide-band radar-warning receiver to allow them to detect and attack ground targets.

Maybe. “That exploration is very preliminary,” Buck said.

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6 Responses to “F-15Cs for Future Ground Attack?”

  1. ELP says:

    There is a good reason why F-15E Strike Eagles were redesigned and beefed up.

    Cs are structurally weaker and things like the durability of the nose-gear is no gift. I would take a pass on this one.

  2. Speaking of Strike Eagles, how about some of these for an F-16 replacement, instead of continually patching up old planes for each new conflict?

  3. Jason says:

    When i was researching my Eitan UAV article this week, one of the IAF press affairs people mentioned to me that the F15Cs in the IAF can carry out ground attack missions. I asked him if he meant the F15I (the Israeli version of the E), but he was insistent it was the C…

  4. Spade says:

    “Now, to replace retiring F-16s, Golden Eagles might pick up interfaces, software and mods to their new wide-band radar-warning receiver to allow them to detect and attack ground targets.”

    Or they could buy brand new F-16 Block 60s. Or Super Hornets. That are currently in production. And pretty cheap. And don’t require costly redesign and modernization work on 25 year old aircraft.

  5. Matthew S. says:

    What an awful idea. F-16 block 60s are available and in production. Why are we so focused on offensive aircraft?

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