The Israel Air Force (IAF) is considering Boeing’s latest F-15 fighter jet over buying a third squadron of the F-35 stealth fighter due to the former’s higher weapons payload.
Despite a price tag which could be 30%-40% more than that of the F-35, the F-15 could be attractive to the IAF due to its ability to carry a variety of weapons on external hard-points unlike the Lockheed Martin aircraft whose weapons payload is limited due to its internal weapons bay, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The IAF is set to decide within the next three to six months between purchasing a third squadron of F-35 jets or Boeing’s latest F-15, the report said.
The IAF has received 12 F-35I “Adir” stealth fighter jets and is expected to receive a total of 50 to make two full squadrons by 2024. While the original letter of intent signed between Israel and Lockheed Martin was for 75 aircraft, the IAF is currently deciding whether to purchase another 25 F-35s or to purchase a squadron of the latest generation F-15s.
Another option could be to buy the vertical take-off and landing F-35B aircraft, Jerusalem post said quoting a Lockheed Martin executive. Israel has expressed interest in the past in acquiring the F-35B, an option that allows the jet to land on much shorter runways if the IAF’s bases are attacked by Iranian jets or missiles from Hezbollah.
One reason for considering the F-15 could be that the F-35 stealth aircraft is limited in the weapons it is able to carry as they have to be stored in internally in order to maintain a low radar signature.
The F-15 model that Israel is interested in purchasing is able to carry large quantities of various types of munitions, advanced radar systems and various other upgrades to the earlier models. Since it is not a stealth plane, Boeing has designed its wings to be able to carry additional bombs and missiles.
Boeing’s F-15 is also set to be more expensive than Lockheed’s already expensive F-35, costing some $110million-$130million per plane as against the F-35 whose price tag is expected to go down to $80 million apiece by 2020.