The US Air Force is currently saddled with a quandary plaguing its air superiority capabilities. With fighter platforms aging rapidly without suitable replacements available, and with foreign nations quickly closing the technology gap which was once the biggest advantage the United States possessed over other countries (at least militarily-so), the USAF needs a fix, fast. Congress has even gone as far as to order the Air Force to explore the possibility of restarting the production line for the F-22, which ended in 2012 with only 187 units produced overall, a mere fraction of what the Air Force originally intended to buy to replace their F-15 Eagles en masse. Boeing says that it has a cheaper and more efficient solution, in the form of a major fleet-wide overhaul of all combat coded F-15Cs.This upgrade, called 2040C or Advanced F-15, will incorporate technology from Boeing’s older Silent Eagle program, along with a few new gadgets, to give the USAF’s F-15Cs a brand new lease on life, turning it into an even deadlier air-to-air fighter than ever before. To help market their product, Boeing just released this excellent video of Eagles with 2040C upgrades.
According to Flight Global, the 2040C upgrade features “quad packs” which fit onto standard under-wing and belly hardpoints (the F-15C has 11 combined), effectively doubling the Eagle’s current air-to-air loadout to 16 missiles. That’s also double the F-22 Raptor’s internal air-to-air loadout. Additionally, conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) similar to the FAST Packs used on F-15E Strike Eagles will help increase the 2040C Eagle’s range without tanking up pylon space for larger drop tanks, which are typically slung in pairs underneath the wings of the aircraft, or on its centerline pylon station (underneath the fuselage).
2040C will also equip the F-15C with the Talon HATE communications pod, allowing it to transfer and receive data to and from F-22s operating alongside Eagles in combat theaters on a secured high-speed link. Previously, the F-22 was unable to communicate in such a way with USAF F-15s and F-16 Fighting Falcons, precluding them from participating in combat ops over Libya. Boeing, in conjunction with BAE Systems, has already been contracted to the tune of $4 billion USD to replace the Eagle’s AN/ALQ-135 Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite with the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS).
As part of the plan, all Eagles will receive Raytheon’s AN/APG-63(V)3 active synthetically scanned array (AESA) radar, which Boeing has already been contracted to install on Air Force Eagles since 2007. As part of the sensors upgrade, a long-range infrared search and track (IRST) system will also be included, allowing the 2040C Eagle a “first sight, first shot, first kill” capability against enemy fighter aircraft. A cockpit overhaul also comes along with the 2040C upgrade. Multifunction displays (MFDs) and gauges will be replaced entirely by a large area display (LAD) similar to the ones used on F-35 Lightning II.Thus far, the Air Force hasn’t made a definite statement on whether or not they’ll pursue the upgrade, though considering that restarting production on the Raptor, or buying brand new F-15s and F-16s will likely ring up a sky-high bill, the 2040C option seems like a fairly decent option to explore.