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New Eagles and Raiders

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An F-15EX Eagle II from the 40th Flight Test Squadron, 96th Test Wing out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, flies in formation during an aerial refueling operation above the skies of Northern California, May 14. The Eagle II participated in the Northern Edge 21 exercise in Alaska earlier in May. (Air Force photo by Ethan Wagner)

I had the opportunity to step out of the Ukraine beat for a few days and talk about some airpower topics over at 1945. Some thoughts on the F-15EX:

The project serves two purposes. The first is to offer relief to the Air Force’s fleet of legacy aircraft, many of which are very old and are increasingly suffering from low readiness rates and expensive maintenance. These aging aircraft are still asked to perform the same missions they have carried out for three decades – they need to be replaced. Opting for a newer version of the old aircraft is an intuitive solution to a complex problem. 

And the Raider:

It’s hard to remember any Pentagon program, much less a highly advanced stealth bomber project, performing as well as the Raider has proceeded thus far. There is little question that Northrop Grumman’s long, challenging experience with the B-2 (a project that suffered essentially every catastrophe that a big Pentagon project can endure, including a classic procurement “death spiral”) helped inform the B-21 bid and ensured that many missteps could be avoided.

Dragging this back to Ukraine for a moment… the F-15EX program intersects with Ukraine fighting in a couple ways, on the one hand as a test bed for souped-up Generation 4 fighters, and on the other hand as part of a long debate over what kind of fighter aircraft should be transferred to Kyiv. We are, strangely enough, in a pretty fascinating moment for talking about linkages between the capacity of the defense industrial base and broader considerations of the national interest.

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