The old plane might soon be able to unstealth Moscow’s latest figher.
The venerable Boeing F-15C Eagle has long been hailed as the world’s greatest air superiority fighter given its lopsided combat record of 104 kills to zero losses, however, the aging jet is likely near the end of its operational life. Nonetheless, it remains a potent fighter even as it likely heads toward retirement.
The U.S. Air Force is deferring planned upgrades to the Eagle—such as the addition of new electronic warfare systems—until it decides if it wants to keep the increasingly aged airframe. Indeed, as the Air Force has discovered, the F-15C will need an extensive airframe overhaul and structural modifications to remain in service past the mid-2020s. In all likelihood, given that the Congress has refused to allow the service to retire the A-10 Warthog, the Air Force will have little choice but to divest itself of the F-15C to free up funding for more pressing projects. The F-15E Strike Eagle interdictor aircraft, though, will remain in service indefinitely.
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However, for the time being, the F-15C makes up about half of the Air Force’s air superiority fleet because the service received less than half of the Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptors that it required. Eventually, the Air Force hopes to develop a new Penetrating Counter Air platform to supersede both the F-15C and the F-22 in the 2030s as Russia and China increasingly field new fifth generation fighters such as the Sukhoi Su-57 PAK-FA.