An updated review shows that the unit price of F-15EX fighters has increased considerably.
Increase in the Price of F-15EX and F-35 Fighters
The F-35 program has been a topic of debate regarding its financial viability. In a twist, the F-15EX, a modernization of the fourth-generation fighter, appears to follow the same financial path, presenting a cost that exceeds initial estimates. According to the latest data, each Lot 2 F-15EX unit could cost up to $90 million, based on the contract with Boeing established on September 28.
This increase in cost is projected to continue to grow, reaching $97 million for Lot 3 aircraft and reducing slightly to $94 million for Lot 4. These figures mark a substantial increase since the first contract was signed, where the price per plane was 80.5 million dollars.
The F-15EX differs from its predecessors by integrating technologies such as the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) electronic warfare system, digital flight controls, and increased ammunition carrying capacity, tripling that of the F-35.
Boeing Production Cost Statements
Mark Sears, vice president of fighters at Boeing, shared in an interview with Defense One his strategies in the face of rising costs, mentioning the importance of “buying at scale” and collaborating with suppliers to ensure long-term affordability. Sears also recognizes the influence of the current economy, inflation and labor instability on production, and Boeing’s intention to be proactive in controlling and mitigating these future costs.
The rising price of the F-15EX, an aircraft whose safety is not fully guaranteed, could result in a preference for the F-35 in future acquisitions.
To reduce the financial impact, Boeing is looking to expand sales of the F-15EX in the international market, which would help spread costs and possibly reduce the acquisition price.
Comparison of Costs and Capabilities between F-35 and F-15EX
While the F-35 ‘s radar cross section is extremely low, comparable to that of an insect, that of the F-15EX is significantly higher. F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman Russ Goemaere reported that the cost of each F-35A for production batches 15 to 17 will be $82.5 million per unit.
On the other hand, the F-16 is still in production for international customers and costs 63 million dollars per copy. Some experts, such as John Venable of the Heritage Foundation, perceive that the F-15EX aircraft offers less value for a higher price than the F-35.
Proponents of the F-15EX argue that the purchase of these aircraft is crucial to maintaining the industrial infrastructure of fighter aircraft manufacturers, highlighting Lockheed Martin and Boeing as the main companies in this sector.
Government Decisions and Future Deliveries of the F-15EX
Initially, the acquisition of 144 units of the F-15EX by the Air Force had been planned, a figure that was reduced to 80 in the 2024 budget project proposed by the Biden administration. However, Congress has proposed an increase to 104 units for the same period.
Sears confirmed that two of the eight F-15EX from Lot 1B have already been delivered. Even so, it remains to be seen whether Boeing will be able to attract the attention of international customers to share production costs worldwide.