GOP Senators Push Back on F-15X Buy

An F-35 Lightning II performs aerial maneuvers during a combat power exercise at Hill AFB, Utah, on Nov. 19, 2018. In a recent letter to President Donald Trump, Republican legislators said DOD should pass on an F-15X buy and, instead, invest more in the F-35. Air Force photo by A1C James Kennedy.

Five Republican senators urged President Trump in a Feb. 14 letter not to buy a new variant of Boeing’s F-15 at the expense of the F-35.

“We are extremely concerned that, over the last few years, the DoD has underfunded the F-35 program and relied on Congress to fund increases in production, sustainment, and modernization,” the lawmakers wrote. “In order to meet the overmatch and lethality goals laid out in the National Security Strategy, the DOD needs to make these investments in the F-35 to affordably deliver and operate this fifth-generation fighter fleet. The F-35 is the most affordable, lethal, and survivable air dominance fighter, and now is the time to double down on the program.”

Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska cosigned the letter, which argues the Air Force needs to buy 60 F-35As in Fiscal 2020 to reach a rate of 80 jets required to succeed in the 2025 threat environment.

“Buying outdated fourth-generation F-15 fighters, like the F-15X, for $100 million per jet … is far from a good deal,” according to the senators. “Choosing to invest in these fighters, which we know are neither lethal nor survivable against today’s advanced threats, would be a disservice to servicemembers and taxpayers.”

Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s top uniformed acquisition officer, recently indicated the service wants the F-15X not because it is backing away from the F-35, but because the fourth-generation fleet that includes F-15Cs is aging out.

Adding F-15X can also capitalize on efficiencies shared with foreign allies that own the same platform, he said.

More details will be revealed in the Fiscal 2020 budget, expected out in mid-March.