Warplanes: Making The F-15 Relevant In An F-22 World


October 11, 2015: Sensing an opportunity the manufacturer of the 1970s era F-15 jet fighter are offering another upgrade, one what uses new missile racks and novel use of hard points usually reserved for extra fuel, to create an F-15 that can carry 16 long range (AMRAAM) air-to-air missiles rather than the usual eight. This enables an F-15 equipped with the latest radars and fire control systems to quickly attack enemy aircraft before those fighters are close enough to hit the F-15. The F-22 and F-35 were designed to excel at BVR (Beyond Visual Range) encounters where longer range AMRAAM missiles could take out enemy fighters up to 70 kilometers away. But there are too few F-22s and the F-35s are suffering an unending series of delays. Air forces with F-15s need some help in the BVR department and an F-15 with the right electronics and lots of BVR missiles seems a likely solution.

Since BVR capability arrived, as the next-big-thing in the 1960 pilots have not been enthusiastic about BVR engagements. The early missiles (like the AIM-7 Sparrow) were not all that reliable or accurate. Pilots were also not confident about firing on an aircraft they could not see (and positively identify as hostile). But after decades of trying, they finally have a winning combination with the AMRAAM and a new generation of radars and electronic gear. Combat training exercises between BVR aircraft and those relying on heat seeking missiles and cannon usually show the BVR birds winning. It has reached the point where many older fighters are being equipped with modern radars and BVR missiles and turned into formidable warplanes because of their BVR, not dog fighting, capabilities.  

For American F-15s there is the added bonus of working with one or more of the stealthy F-22s and relying the superior F-22 passive sensors acting as spotters for targets that the AMRAAM equipped F-15s can then fire on quickly and with enough missiles to knock down most of the enemy aircraft before they can fire back. The U.S. Air Force is upgrading 178 of its F-15s to the “Golden Eagle” standard (AESA radar and passive long range sensors) that makes these new tactics possible because these aircraft are equipped to communicate with F-22s using a new system that does not risk detection by doing so.


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