The Ides of March seem to have hit Lockheed Martin hard. The Pentagon’s 2020 budget report which suggested buying 80 Boeing’s F-15 for the first time since 2001 has resulted in a furious battle against Lockheed Martin’s advanced fifth generation F-35 that remains plagued by reliability, service life and accuracy issues after over a decade of development and billions of dollars spent!
While Lockheed’s CEO Marilyn Hewson has been going about town declaring any F-15 purchases will not be at the expense of F-35 which ‘enjoys support across the Congress, Pentagon, Air Force’ it hasn’t stopped it from getting lobbyists, journalists and other like-minded people to ensure F-35 stays relevant. This is the beauty of the military industrial complex, it upgrades its hardware and then tells you your hardware is now defunct and to stay relevant and strong in battle, you need to upgrade. No upgradation means no money for the complex.
Predictably, lobbyists and vested interest have sent letters to President Trump that any F-15 purchases will take away precious resources and undermine the important national security program of F-35. So as things currently stand its Pentagon vs US air Force. The Air Force’s argument is further F-15 purchases will skew the squadron ratio of 80% fourth generation and 20% fifth which means looking backwards. Interestingly, F-15 boasts of a much higher speed than F-35 and has a combat proven record showing it can take on the best there is globally and come out winning.
Boeing is currently selling F-15 to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and its new F-15 variation for USAF would be able to carry heavy loads which F-35 would not be able to do. Boeing has already said it’s ready to provide a highly survivable advanced F-15 variant at an affordable cost. Lockheed Martin, in counter is circulating a fact sheet against F-15 along with a three page white paper detailing F-35’s decisive edge over an unnamed fourth generation fighter and getting senators to say F-35’s development program is underfunded (despite billions of dollars spent and uncertainties). Pentagon budget documents signal that apart from these 80, F-15 could refresh F-15C, F-15D and F-15E over the decade marking more than 400 purchases. Considering that Lockheed Martin has nothing much to show for F-35 and also recently ate crow in the Pakistani Air Force F-16 dogfight vs. Indian Air Force’s Mig 21 Bison effectively losing the order for India specific F-21,its overreaction to court press can be understood.