While the F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor might be the new posterboys for the US Air Force's fighter fleet, there's still something to be said for the venerable F-15 Eagle, the twin-engine, fourth-generation fighter that's served since 1976.
In the interest of keeping Eagles rolling down the production line, Boeing is allegedly preparing to introduce a variant of the F-15E Strike Eagle that can carry 16 air-to-air missiles. That's twice the number that the normal F-15E can carry, and according to Foxtrot Alpha, which uncovered the artwork for the new aircraft, it could include the new AIM-120D AMRAAM. This new missile doubles the range over previous versions. To put it simply, this alleged concept could haul twice as many missiles, all of which could travel twice as far. That's got to be impressive, even for the stealth-obsessed Air Force brass.
But where would this new aircraft, if it's for real and is able to be retrofitted to current F-15s, fit into the USAF's battle plan? As Foxtrot Alpha tells it, the Eagle could serve as "an arsenal ship." It'd sit back, at the maximum of the AIM-120D's roughly 110-mile range, while the stealthy F-22 and F-35s would fly in and "paint" opposing aircraft. This one-two punch keeps the Eagle relevant and adds to the F-22/F-35's beyond-visual-range abilities.
We'll hopefully have more on this new F-15 variant if/when it debuts at next week's Air Force Association conference near Washington, D.C.