Air National Guard director wants to boost F-15EX procurement

An F-15EX fighter taxis to a parking lot at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Nov. 8, 2021. The aircraft visited Wright-Pat to give the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center’s F-15EX program office an opportunity to see the aircraft up close. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jaime Fogg)

AFA 2022 — Head of Art Air National Guard signals that he will push for an increase in the Air Force F-15EX buy, which was cut from 144 to 80 planes in the fiscal year 2023 budget.

During a roundtable with reporters Wednesday at the Air Force Association’s Airspace and Cyberspace Conference, ANG Cmdr. Lieutenant General Michael Loch has repeatedly expressed concern about the aging F-15C/D stockpile, stating that they should all be replaced by Boeing F-15EX or Lockheed Martin F-35A.

When asked specifically if he thinks the F-15EX purchase is currently too low and if he would advocate increasing it, Loch smiled and gave a thumbs up.

“Some people still look at it as a 1970s aircraft. It’s not,” he said, pointing to the F-15EX’s advanced capabilities, including an open mission system architecture, the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survability System and the AN/APG-82 radar.

However, he expressed his belief that more jets could be added to the program of record in the short term as the Air Force begins to field the planes and see their performance.

“We didn’t do a lot of work saying, ‘Hey, here’s how this is, say, a better fit than the F-15E,'” he said. “And this will be our task for the next few years. This will then stimulate different conversations.’

Currently, the Air Force plans to buy 24 F-15EX aircraft in FY23 and complete the procurement in FY24 with a final purchase of 24 jets. But Congress could step in — as it has for the past decade, when lawmakers repeatedly pushed the Navy to buy additional F/A-18E/F Super Hornets at a time when the service planned to cut Super Hornet production.

RELATED: Despite inflation woes, Boeing says it can maintain F-15EX’s $80 million unit cost

Locham’s support for the F-15EX could find strong support on Capitol Hill, particularly among lawmakers representing St. Louis, Missouri, where the F-15 is manufactured.

With a total of 80 F-15EXs, the Air Force will be able to replace the F-15C/D in approximately three of its existing squadrons. — active or guard — lpreparing five older F-15C/D squadrons without EX models to replace them. It’s possible that the Air Force will instead convert those squadrons to the F-35, though Loch noted that the Air Force would have to increase its F-35 procurement to 72 aircraft per year to do so.

Portland Air National Guard Base in Oregon is slated to be the first operational base to receive the F-15EX in 2023. Three bases where the Guard operates the F-15C/D — Barnes Airport in Massachusetts, Fresno Yosemite Airport in California and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Louisiana — are still waiting to see if pilots will transition to the F-15EX or F-35, as does Kadena Air Force Base in Japan, which hosts two F-15C/Ds in active service. squadrons. Air National Guard director wants to boost F-15EX procurement

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