Boeing F-15EX offer, adds new dimension to Indo-US ties

IDD explainer

Sharing cutting-edge technology with a partner, the US has allowed Boeing to offer its very latest fighter jet, the F-15EX to India.

The move comes just six months after the jet was okayed for purchase by the US Air Force (USAF) in July last year when a $1.2 billion contract was inked for the first lot of eight fighter aircraft. The USAF plans to purchase a total of 76 F-15EX aircraft over the five-year Future Years Defense Program.

Boeing officials in India announced that the jet would be offered to India which is looking to get 114 under the Multi Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) progarmme. Boeing officials have been quoted in India media saying the plane was expected to be flying till 2055, meaning a long life cycle support. It   has a scope of further improvement and carries the latest weaponry.

pic Boeing

The F-15EX, is the latest and most advanced version of the combat-proven, multi-role, all-weather day/night aircraft from the F-15 family of jets.  The F-15EX can offer a future-ready, multi-role solution to the Indian Air Force in the form of unmatched payload, performance, and persistence by integrating leading edge technologies, networks, and weapons and sensors, the company said. 

USAF awarded in July 2020

The contract, awarded to Boeing, provides for the design, development, integration, manufacturing, test, verification, certification, delivery, sustainment and modification of F-15EX aircraft, including spares, support equipment, training materials, technical data and technical support.  The F-15EX will replace the oldest F-15C/Ds in the service’s inventory of the USAF. Eight F-15EX aircraft were approved in the fiscal year 2020 budget and 12 were requested in the FY21 budget. Read it here

Insertion of new technologies

The most significant feature of the F-15EX is its Open Mission Systems (OMS) architecture. The OMS architecture will enable the rapid insertion of the latest aircraft technologies. The F-15EX will also have fly-by-wire flight controls, a new electronic warfare system, advanced cockpit systems, and the latest mission systems and software capabilities available.

India’s MRFA and what does F-15EX means

In April 2018 India had floated a global request for information (RFI) seeking responses for the 114 fighter jet project. The RFI ( read it here) is first step in the Indian tendering process and these two years  and more — the next step called the request for proposal (RFP) — has not been initiated. This will be kick-started when the Ministry does an ‘acceptance of necessity’ (AON) following which an RFP is issued asking the vendors to respond with technical and commercial bids.

Seven global plane makers have sent in their proposals for the RFI but the project – expected to be some $ 12-13 billion with weapons and associated  packages —  is on the backburner for now, sources in the Ministry Defence indicate.

In the race for this tender are the Lockheed Martin’s F-21, Boeing’s F/A-18IN, Eurofighter Typhoon, French Dassault’s Rafale, Swedish Saab’s Gripen and Russian MiG-35 and the Sukhoi 35. With the addition of the F-15EX, a new dimension is added as this is very latest of the inventory and is just about to be inducted in the USAF.

Pic Boeing

The selected foreign OEM will tie-up with a selected Indian strategic partner (SP). The foreign manufacturer who will win the bid for making the 114 fighter jets under the SP Model will be the obvious partner for the AMCA. The RFI for the 114 jets mandates Transfer of Technology (ToT) to Indian partner. The foreign company winning the tender could be the automatic choice for AMCA and will get due weightage.

A decision on 114 jets will hinge upon how India plans to pace the manufacturing of the next locally made fighter jets – the Tejas Mark 2, also called the medium weight fighter and the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA). Both require foreign engines and the AMCA needs some outside design support too.

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