No, the Pentagon won’t be buying more F-22 Raptors from Lockheed Martin. Instead, the U.S. military’s main flying branch has turned to an older jet that, with upgrades, could prove to be an even better J-20-killer than the newer, more expensive F-22. That’s right: the Boeing F-15 Eagle, one of the stars of the 1991 Gulf War, is quickly shaping up as America’s main countermeasure to China’s new fighter for the next 20 years.
To be fair, the F-15 and F-22 (and, later, the F-35) will probably usually work in teams. But the F-15, with its better sensors, could prove to be the backbone for U.S. and allied forces in any Pacific dogfight.
The magic is all in the Eagle’s nose. Compared to the angular, stealthy F-22, the totally non-stealth F-15 has a more capacious nosecone that can carry a larger radar. The larger the radar, the more likely it is to detect the J-20, despite that plane’s potentially very small frontal radar cross-section. The F-15 also routinely carries more fuel and missiles than the F-22.