Justify That Eagle Eye

Congress reduced funding for F-15C/D infrared search and track (IRST) development by $10 million until the Air Force and Navy justify the need to develop separate systems for the F-15 and F-18. The reductions were part of a $5 billion package, revealed on Tuesday, meant to bring the Fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill in line with the recently signed two-year budget deal. IRST would enable the legacy fighters to discreetly detect and track air-to-air targets in radar-denied scenarios, which the Air Force called “vital to operations in a contested environment,” according to USAF’s FY16 budget request overview. Language included in the FY16 defense policy bill stipulates the Secretary of Defense report no later than March 1, 2016, detailing requirements and cost estimates for the two aircraft. No more than half of the budgeted developmental funds will be available until 30 days after the report is submitted to Congress, according to the bill. The report must compare the F-15 and F-18’s relative requirements, schedule, and cost, in addition to including “an explanation of any need for the Navy and the Air Force to field different” IRST systems on their respective fighter fleets. Lockheed Martin pitched a new podded IRST concept for F-15 earlier this year.