To assist in the F-15E's development, McDonnell Douglas modified the second TF-15A prototype, AF serial number 71-0291, as a demonstrator. The aircraft, known as the Advanced Fighter Capability Demonstrator, first flew on 8 July 1980. It was previously used to test conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), initially designed for the F-15 under the designation "FAST Pack", with FAST standing for "Fuel and Sensor, Tactical. It was subsequently fitted with a Pave Tack laser designator targeting pod to allow the independent delivery of guided bombs. The demonstrator was displayed at the 1980 Farnborough Airshow.
USAF F-15Es have participated in Operation Inherent Resolve against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria. On the morning of 23 September 2014, numerous American and Arab aircraft conducted air strikes in Syria against IS fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks, and armed vehicles. The Pentagon released videos of targets hit by ordnance deployed by F-15Es, taken by their AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods. Between August 2014 and January 2015, F-15Es flew 37 percent of all USAF sorties.
USAF F-15Es based at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom performed several long range strikes against IS camps and prominent figures in Libya. On 13 November 2015, a pair of F-15Es killed Abu Nabil al-Anbari, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Libya, in a strike near Darnah, Eastern Libya. On 20 February 2016, USAF F-15Es hit an IS training camp near Sabratha where foreign fighters were based, reportedly killing Noureddine Chouchane, a 36-year-old Tunisian jihadist linked to the 2015 Sousse attacks. Sources said that 49 people were killed and 6 wounded; two Serbians kidnapped by IS in 2015 were also reportedly killed.
After the Gulf War in 1991, in which Israeli towns were attacked by SCUD missiles based in Iraq, the Israeli government decided a long range strike aircraft was needed, issuing a Request for Information (RFI). In response, Lockheed Martin offered a version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, while McDonnell Douglas offered both the F/A-18 Hornet and the F-15E. On 27 January 1994, the Israeli government announced their intention to buy 21 modified F-15Es, designated F-15I. On 12 May 1994, the US Government authorized the purchase of up to 25 F-15Is by Israel. In November 1995, Israel ordered four extra F-15Is; 25 were built from 1996 to 1998. Some of the air-to-air missiles aircraft can carry: the AIM-9L, Rafael Python 4 and the Rafael Python 5 infrared-homing missiles; and the AIM-7 Sparrow and the AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided missiles. In 1999, Israel announced its intention to procure more fighters and that a possible contender was the F-15I. However, the contract went to the F-16I.
A fifth-generation fighter is a jet fighter aircraft classification which includes major technologies developed during the first part of the 21st century. As of 2023[update], these are the most advanced fighters in operation. The characteristics of a fifth-generation fighter are not universally agreed upon and not every fifth-generation type necessarily has them all; however, they typically include stealth, low-probability-of-intercept radar (LPIR), agile airframes with supercruise performance, advanced avionics features, and highly integrated computer systems capable of networking with other elements within the battlespace for situation awareness and C3 (command, control and communications) capabilities.
However, the more powerful sensors, such as AESA radar which is able to operate in multiple modes at the same time, may present too much information for the single pilot in the F-22, F-35 and Su-57 to adequately use. The Sukhoi/HAL FGFA offered a return to the two-seat configuration common in fourth generation strike fighters, but this was rejected over cost concerns.
According to Lockheed Martin in 2004, the only fifth-generation jet fighter then in operational service was their own F-22 Raptor. Lockheed Martin uses "fifth-generation fighter" to describe the F-22 and F-35 fighters, with the definition including "advanced stealth", "extreme performance", "information fusion" and "advanced sustainment". For unknown reasons, their definition no longer includes supercruise capability, which has typically been associated with the more advanced modern fighters, but which the F-35 lacks. Lockheed Martin attempted to trademark the term "5th generation fighters" in association with jet aircraft and structural parts thereof, and has a trademark for a logo with the term.
By the late 1990s, several Chinese fifth-generation fighter programs, grouped under the program codename J-XX or XXJ, were identified by western intelligence sources. PLAAF officials have confirmed the existence of such a program, which they estimated would enter service between 2017 and 2019. By late 2010, two prototypes of the Chengdu J-20 had been constructed and were undergoing high-speed taxi trials. The J-20 made its first flight on 11 January 2011. On 26 December 2015, a new J-20 with serial number 2101 was seen leaving its Chengdu Aviation Corporation factory. It is believed to be the first of the low rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft. 2101 conducted its maiden flight on 18 January 2016.
Japan developed a prototype of a stealth jet fighter called the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin, previously referred to as the ATD-X. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Japan, seeking to replace its aging fleet of fighter aircraft, began making overtures to the United States on the topic of purchasing F-22 fighters for their own forces. However the U.S. Congress had banned the exporting of the aircraft in order to safeguard secrets of the aircraft's technology such as its extensive use of stealth; this rejection necessitated Japan's development of its own modern fighter, to be equipped with stealth features and other advanced systems.
The Navy's proposed FY2012 budget requests about $2.4 billion for the procurement of 28 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters and about $1.1 billion for the procurement of 12 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft. The F-18s will be procured under a multiyear procurement contract approved by Congress in FY2011.
The Navy's proposed FY2012 budget requests about $2.4 billion for the procurement of 28 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters and about $1.1 billion for the procurement of 12 EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft.
The Navy's FY2011 request for 22 F/A-18E/Fs comes in the context of a projected shortfall in Navy and Marine Corps strike fighters. Estimates of the extent of the shortfall vary, with the peak of the shortfall ranging from 100 aircraft by one estimate to 243 or more aircraft according to other estimates.
As of early 2009, the Navy operated about 380 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters, the Navy and Marine Corps operated a total of about 620 older F/A-18A-D Hornet strike fighters, and the Marine Corps operated about 125 AV-8B Harrier II short takeoff, vertical landing attack aircraft.16 In coming years, the Navy plans to retire its Hornets and shift to a combination of Super Hornets and F-35Cs, while the Marine Corps plans to retire its Hornets and Harriers and shift to strike fighter force composed entirely of F-35Bs.
DON's inventory of strike fighters currently falls short of the number that Navy officials state is required to fully support requirements for Navy and Marine Corps air wings, and the Navy is projecting that this shortfall will grow in coming years. DOD's addition of 41 aircraft to the F-18 force is intended to partially mitigate this shortfall.
The size of the shortfall will drive both the impact on the naval services and the options available for its relief. The difference between Secretary Gates's projection of "about a hundred aircraft" and the earlier Navy estimate of as high as 243 is more than two carriers' inventory of strike fighters. Fixing a number will enable Congress to choose among proposals to accelerate F-35 acquisition, SLEP more Hornets and Super Hornets, stand down or retire carriers and/or air wings, or other options.
Proponents of procuring additional F/A-18s in FY2012 could argue that doing so would further mitigate the projected Navy-Marine Corps strike fighter shortfall and the operational risks associated with it. Proponents could also argue that increasing the number of F/A-18E/Fs procured in FY2012 to something more than 28 could increase economies of scale for the current F/A-18E/F multiyear purchase, reducing the average procurement cost of each FY2012 aircraft, and extend the life of the F/A-18 production line, which could offer insurance against further delays in F-35 production.
Opponents of procuring additional F/A-18s in FY2012 could argue that in a situation of limited defense funding, procuring additional F/A-18E/Fs could require reducing funding for one or more other defense programs, which could lead to operational risks in other areas. Opponents could also argue that further F/A-18 production could restrict Navy combat capability by increasing its inventory of older-design fighters rather than addressing current and future threats with the most technologically advanced aircraft, and that additional F/A-18s would not help the Marine Corps, which has committed to move exclusively to F-35s.
The committee is disappointed with the manner in which officials of the Department of the Navy have conveyed strike-fighter inventory requirements and estimated shortfalls over the past several years. The committee notes that the validated strike-fighter inventory requirement is 1,240 aircraft, but currently the Navy is using the current operational demand figure of 1,154 aircraft as its baseline for projections of future shortfalls. This is an inaccurate depiction of the actual shortfall of tactical fighters in the inventory, and the Navy and Marine Corps strike-fighter shortfall mitigation strategies are either optimistic or not credible since the mitigation strategies are not funded. 2b1af7f3a8