Air-Minded: Additional Shades of Gray

IMG_1676I saw this meme on a fighter pilot’s Instagram and copied it, not just because I appreciate the humor, but also because it touches on a topic I sometimes write about.

Quick background: The F-15C Eagle, currently being retired by the USAF, is a single-seat air-to-air fighter. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a crewed two-seat multi-role fighter-bomber. The USAF’s brand-new F-15EX Eagle II is a two-seater, an improved version of the Strike Eagle.

Whether the USAF will operate the Eagle II as a crewed aircraft is still up in the air, I think, but the arc is bending in the crewed direction.

In early 2020, when the Air Force announced the F-15EX buy, most Eagle drivers assumed the new fighter would be a single-seater, like the F-15C it was meant to replace. In fact, early press releases from the USAF and the manufacturer, Boeing, implied the EX would be a single-seater, but that the first couple of test aircraft would be two-seaters. By July 2020, however, it became clear that all F-15EXs would be two-seaters.

The USAF originally planned to assign the F-15EX to active and air national guard air-to-air squadrons currently flying the older F-15C. Those units quickly announced their intention to fly them with the back seats empty. That didn’t pass the smell test to me then, and it doesn’t now.

I think the F-15EX will inevitably be operated as a crewed multi-role fighter-bomber. Air-to-air squadrons will fly it in that role, but will add air-to-ground as a secondary mission, and WSOs will be assigned to those squadrons. Some F-15EX aircraft will go to Strike Eagle squadrons to replace older aircraft, and will be operated in the that aircraft’s role (air-to-ground primary, air-to-air secondary).

There’s always been a pitched rivalry between the single-seat and two-seat fighter communities, evident in the meme I copied. The average F-15 Eagle pilot (me, anyway) sees the two-seat pilot/WSO Eagle II as a step backward to F-4 Phantom/F-111 Aardvark days. Still a fighter, no doubt more capable than the single-seat Eagle, but …

back to the Air-Minded Index

2 thoughts on “Air-Minded: Additional Shades of Gray

  • The Ukraines are claiming four Su-34 & Su-35 fighter/bombers destroyed in the last few days, the cruise and ballistic missile launchers Russia uses on subways, apartments and hospitals.
    And a previous double downing of a Russian AWAKS and an elint type over the sea of Azov.
    And the Russians were flying 100km from the border. Pundits surmise the kills were from Patriot missile battery unit(s) daringly exposing themselves by pushing up close to Russian lines, shooting down the Ivans, then scooting back.
    Hard to operate in hostile skies under universal surveillance networked to effective AAA and long range AAMs.
    I read they’re converting the venerable KC-135 tanker to remote drone operation, toting and dropping its own drone cruise missiles as well.
    It seems every new manned fighter proposed must also control drone aircraft ‘friendly wingman’ swarms of accompanying AI autonomous aircraft.
    As the new AA innovations improve, it might become impossible to achieve our old style of aerial superiority if not dominance.
    If manned air combat becomes a suicide mission it will be hard to justify risking a pilot’s life, much less a pilot and a WSO.
    Tod recently posted…British Blackburn Buccaneer: Long Range Long Lived SmasherMy Profile

  • Somebody has been busy: disinformation lapped up by US House subcommittee chairs costing taxpayers millions and wasting years while defector pilots are Bruce Willised in Spanish parking lots…hot damn! Rachel M is often a good, low key source.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge