Boeing reiterates interest in offering new ‘heavy duty’ fighter to IAF

F-15EX can carry over 13 tonnes of weapons and fuel, significantly more than Rafale

f-15ex A computer-generated image of F-15EX jets | Boeing

Boeing is assisting the US Air Force in answering questions from the Indian Air Force (IAF) about the capabilities of its new F-15EX multirole fighter.

The information was given by Prat Kumar, Boeing vice-president and F-15 programme manager, at a webinar on Wednesday. The F-15EX is the newest iteration of the legendary F-15 air superiority fighter, which made its first flight in 1972.

Boeing had confirmed in February that it was seeking a US government licence to provide details of the F-15EX to the Indian Air Force. Kumar said the F-15EX could be pitched as a contender for the Indian Air Force's tender for 114 fighter jets. Interestingly, Boeing had already offered its F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet for the Indian Air Force.

"India is there for a large 114-jet acquisition programme. We are waiting for the ASQRs (Air Staff Qualitative Requirements), the requirements definitions, because right now, until we have that, we do not know if this jet is in the sweet spot or not. Right now, we are supporting the US Air Force in whatever shape, way or form we can to answer any questions they have coming from the Indian Air Force (about F-15EX)," Kumar was quoted as saying in the webinar.

At the webinar, Boeing announced it also considered Israel as a possible buyer for the F-15EX. Israel was one of the first buyers of the F-15 fighter and also operates its multi-role variant, the F-15E.

The reiteration of the Indian Air Force as a possible customer for the F-15EX comes just two days after the US Air Force placed its first order for the type. On Monday, the US Air Force ordered eight F-15EX jets at a cost of $1.2 billion; the US Air Force has projected it could buy at least 144 F-15EX fighters at an estimated cost of $23 billion. Defence News reported "Each jet is projected to have a unit flyaway cost of $87.7 million."

A prominent Indian defence website had recently reported that Boeing could effectively 'replace' its offer of the F/A-18 E/F for the Indian Air Force's tender for 114 jets with the F-15EX. Companies from Russia, Europe and the US had offered their aircraft for the Indian Air Force contract for 114 fighters.

If formally offered to the Indian Air Force, the F-15EX would be the largest and heaviest aircraft in contention. In terms of loaded weight and dimensions, the F-15EX is significantly larger than the Super Hornet and Rafale, which the Indian Air Force has already purchased. The F-15EX, reportedly, has a maximum take-off weight of about 36 tonnes, near to that of the Su-30MKI, the Indian Air Force’s mainstay fighter.

Boeing claims the F-15EX can carry over 13 tonnes of weapons and fuel tanks under its wings and fuselage, which is well over the Rafale's publicised payload capacity of 9.5 tonnes. Moreover, the F-15EX has conformal fuel tanks to increase range and advanced navigation equipment for low-level ground-attack missions.

Boeing states the F-15EX has a new fly-by-wire control system, electronic warfare capabilities and airframe to mount over a dozen air-to-air missiles. According to Boeing, the F-15EX carries more weapons than any other fighter in its class, and can launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet long and weighing up to 7,000 pounds (approximately 3.1 tonnes).

“F-15EX brings together benefits of digital engineering, open mission systems and agile software development to keep it affordable and upgradable for decades to come. This means we can rapidly test and field new capabilities on F-15EX keeping our warfighters ahead of threats," Kumar had said in a Boeing press release.