The annual Air Force Association conference will kick off outside of Washington next week, where Boeing is putting its latest and greatest combat aircraft developments on show for industry and Washington power brokers.
This includes new F-15 configurations that allow the 43-year-old design to lug 16 air-to-air missiles into combat instead of the standard eight it carries today.According to Boeing artwork floating around the net, this includes the activation of the number one and number nine weapon stations on the outer wings, or possibly by hefting a multiple ejector rack capable of carrying a pair of AIM-120 AMRAAMs on the Strike Eagle’s conformal fuel tanks. It’s speculated that some modifications have been made to the Eagle’s existing conformal fuel tank design to make this possible. Additionally, a new pylon for the Eagle’s standard wing hardpoints capable of carrying four missiles instead of two looks to be a key part of the concept.
Like the F-15 Silent Eagle concept and its various sub-options that have yet to find any buyers, this new Eagle offering may not be exclusive to new-build aircraft alone and could be able to be applied to various Eagle variants to varying degrees, depending on the operator’s needs. Conformal fuel tanks can even be fitted to existing F-15C/Ds, so this type of modification may not be limited to the F-15 Strike Eagle series alone.
More air-to-air missiles is a good thing for the Eagle. As the the new AIM-120D AMRAAM comes on line and is paired along with the F-15C/D’s APG-63V3 and F-15E’s APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array radars, the Eagle will be able to sling missiles from about double the range they can today, depending on the engagement situation. More missiles means more tactical options when facing a robust foe, and it also means the Eagle may be able to work as an arsenal ship of sorts for stealthy F-35s and F-22s which have far less beyond-visual-range missile carrying capabilities. By using the F-35 and F-22’s data collected forward of an Eagle’s position, along with the Eagle’s greatly enhanced radar data, the F-15 could provide missiles on demand from many dozens of miles away. This would also allow F-35s and F-22s to work as battle managers of sorts well ahead of the Eagle’s position even after their weapons bays are empty.