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By Debbie Gregory.

The Boeing Co. is pitching a new version of the F-15 Eagle to the U.S. Air Force that combines an updated airframe with an unprecedented number of anti-air missiles.

The F-15 Eagle was first introduced in 1972, and although it has undergone many changes in its near five decades history, it has consistently carried the same number of missiles. The newest version, known as F-15X, would be equipped with improved avionics and radars and would carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles.

The F-15X configuration includes a flat-panel glass cockpit, JHMCS II helmet mounted display, revised internal wing structure, fly-by-wire controls, APG-82 AESA radar, activation of outer wing stations one and nine, advanced mission computer, low-profile heads-up display, updated radio and satellite communications, the highly advanced Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System electronic warfare and electronic surveillance suite, and Legion Pod-mounted infrared search and track system.

Boeing intends to deliver the F-15X at a flyaway cost well below that of an F-35A—which runs about $95M per unit. It has been speculated that Boeing is willing to offer the F-15X under a fixed priced contract. In other words, whatever the jets actually end up costing, the Pentagon will pay an agreed upon fixed price, with Boeing guaranteeing that it will absorb any overages.

While the Air Force had previously sworn off non-stealthy jets, the price of stealth aircraft, and the cost to keep them flying, is proving exorbitant. Spending money now to acquire F-15Xs may actually save money in the long run. The Air Force already intends to upgrade its F-15C/D fleet so that it could remain viable into at least the 2030s, but doing so would cost many millions of dollars per jet. The projected service life for the F-15X is 20,000 hours, about three times that of most fighters currently being produced. That means that this fleet could be in service until the end of this century!