A Surprise Entry to India’s MMRCA v2.0: The US offers F-15EX after Super Hornet and F-21 to India

Boeing F-15EX Multi-role Fighter Jet

NEW DELHI – The multi-billion dollar Indian program to acquire new fighter jets could see a third American aircraft enter the competition, with permissions being sought to offer the iconic F-15EX to the air force for its requirement of 114 fighters that are to be produced domestically reported the Times of India.

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The F-15EX is a network-centric fighter aircraft which produces advanced battlefield information and situational awareness of the war, assisting pilot to make better decision and enhance mission management. The F-15EX provides modern sensors, surviability, AESA radar, more payloads with extended range of missions. The F-15EX carry more AMRAAM, precision guided bombs, cruise missiles, anti-ship missile and loitering munitions than any other fighter jets produced in the East or the West.

Though the impressive F-15 airframe was designed to be solely an air superiority fighter, it has been used to shoot down satellites, fly to 100,000 feet, employ stealth cruise missiles, shoot over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles, simultaneously employ multiple 5,000 lb. bunker busters, and capable of flying 800 miles per hour just 100 feet above the ground, at night, in the weather — on autopilot.

The potential entry of the F-15EX into the contest is the latest twist in yet another convoluted Indian procurement exercise by the Indian Government.

Read More Saab’s Gripen E is Leading IAF’s latest MMRCA Contest for 110 Fighter Jets

Boeing is contemplating pitching the F-15EX to New Delhi for one of the country’s long-running fighter procurement – a contest in which Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Block III is already competing. 

Boeing was responding to a query from FlightGlobal after a 9 February meeting with Kelli Seybolt, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for international affairs, who disclosed that Boeing had sought an export license for India for the F-15EX. 

Boeing F-15E outfitted with AMBER rack. With no other changes, this rack would expand current F-15E missile capacity up to 14 AIM-120.

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The license will allow Boeing to discuss the F-15EX with Indian officials in compliance with the USA’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Read More   The USAF to upgrade 72 F-16 with APG-83 SABR AESA Radar

Currently, single-engined Lockheed Martin F-16V – dubbed the F-21 for the Indian contest – and Saab Gripen E/F, alongside the twin-engined Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Super Hornet are running for the lucrative deal. Indian Air Force ruled out Russian RAC MiG-35 and Sukhoi Su-35 for not meeting the technical requirements- namely AESA radar section of MMRCA requirements.

The US made jet, which has made a comeback after the US Air Force placed an order for 8 which could go up to 72, will join the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the F-21 (an India specific variant of the F-16V) that are already on offer. The more advanced F-35 has not been offered to India, with reluctance over the purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems.

Read More American Lockheed Martin Submit Proposal to Build F-21 Under “Make In India” Initiatives

An F-15SA configured with 12 CBU-105 cluster bombs, eight AIM-120 missiles, terrain following radar, forward-looking infrared, and targeting pods, conformal fuel tanks, and external tanks totaling 30,000 lb. of fuel. Inset, disposable 10-hour loiter Remedy drone that fits inside repurposed cluster bomb canisters. (Image: Northrop Grumman)

“The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force have distinct operational needs for fighters. While awaiting further definition on the Indian Air Force’s requirements, we have requested a license for the F-15EX so that we’re ready to share the full spectrum of potential solutions across our fighter portfolio when appropriate,” a Boeing spokesperson said in response to a query after a US official disclosed the export license application.

The US Company added that the license application is a routine procedural step that will give it flexibility to provide information on the jets when required. “We continue to offer the F/A-18 Super Hornet to both the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force,” the company said.

Read More Lockheed Martin F-21: Meet the ‘Make In India’ Fighter Jet

The complex acquisition process would take at least five years to complete. However, in the past the US has preferred the faster Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route when it comes to arms sales to India that comes under a government guarantee.

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