Philip Harris ConflictDaily.com 14 March 2017
To understand why this might just be the perfect wing man for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter we must first identify what areas the F-35 cannot fill that the F-15 can. The F-35 is a stealth multi role fighter and can be used as a stealth bomber. But for this aircraft to be stealth it has to carry its weapons inside the aircraft in the internally mounted weapon mounts. Stealth F-35s can mount weapons to the outside of its wings like other legacy fighter aircraft, however, this causes the stealth to be impacted and defeats the purpose of a stealth fighter in the first place. Also, externally mounted weapons cause drag on the aircraft reducing its flight time, range and maneuverability.
Enter the new variant of the F-15 Eagle called the F-15 2040C. The F-15’s main priority in the sky is to defeat any enemy aircraft flying, making it an air superiority fighter. While the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter was extremely expensive and too difficult to maintain, the F-15 are now seeing their chance to continue service helping the F-35s out in the air. Because the F-35 cannot mount weapons to the outside of the aircraft without compromising its stealth, it is limited in its arsenal choices. Where as the F-15 2040C is said to be able to carry up to 16 air to air missiles. That is 10 more than the F-35 can carry.
Popular Mechanics makes an interesting point on this, determining that making the F-15 a missile truck for the F-35s, is a great idea. The F-35 has a computer that is mostly classified but says it is more of a network that links all friendly aircraft and vehicles with one another to be able to “see” the battlefield more completely. The vast sensor arrays the F-35 comes with basically means the older F-15 carrying all the missiles can pick up targeting data from stealth F-35s and use the data to shoot the target without risking been seen on radar.
All of this is occurring over contested air space and without any stealth aircraft firing a shot yet. After the legacy F-15 aircraft have expended their missiles using data the F-35 pilots gave them they head for home, letting the stealth fighters do the rest and more risky maneuvers stealth aircraft are more designed to so.
The specific upgrade these F-15’s will be receiving is in the form of 4 “quad packs”, basically meaning 4 sets of mounts that attach to the wings that carry 4 missiles each. Making the F-15 2040C a 16 missile toting brawler, that any F-35 could be friends with.