The amendment, proposed by Rep. John James, R-Mich., and accepted by voice vote on the floor of the House Wednesday, would increase the Air Force’s advance funding for the F-15EX by $30.6 million.
This would allow the Air Force to buy two more Boeing-made F-15EXs, James said in a Tuesday House Rules Committee hearing. And the amendment would require the Air Force to send these two F-15EXs to an Air National Guard base that has A-10 Warthogs, but is without an identified aircraft to replace them after the Air Force retires the A-10 by the end of this decade.
The 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, which is in James’s district, is one such unit.
“Bringing the F-15EX mission to Selfridge and increasing our capacity to project combat power by solidifying our industrial base, increasing capacity for these fighters, is in our vital national interest,” James said. “I cannot stand idly by while the A-10s at Selfridge are retired without a replacement fighter mission.”
The proposed $30.6 million would be in addition to the $92 million increase in advance F-15EX funding the House Armed Services Committee included in the NDAA in June, James said. That $92 million increase would allow the Air Force to buy six more fighters in 2025. Those two increases, on top of the $228 million the Air Force originally requested, would bring the service’s total advance procurement spending for the F-15EX to $350 million in 2024.
The two amendments together would mean the Air Force would buy 32 F-15EXs total in 2025, and would increase the service’s total planned procurement from 104 to 112, Noah Sadlier, who is James’s communication director, told Defense News.
And with the 48 F-35s the Air Force plans to procure in 2025, it would mean the service would buy 80 new fighters in total that year. Air Force leaders maintain the service needs to buy at least 72 new fighters each year to modernize its fleet and lower the average age of those planes.
The F-15EX is an updated version of the fourth-generation F-15, with advanced avionics such as fly-by-wire controls and improved electronic warfare capabilities.
But the Air Force now has only two test F-15EXs in its possession, and production problems delayed Boeing’s delivery of the next six F-15EXs. That batch of fighters was originally expected to arrive in December 2022.
The Government Accountability Office said in a June report supplier problems with the quality of a critical component of the fighters’ forward fuselage assembly was the main cause of the delay. GAO did not specify what that component was, but said it is needed to ensure safety of flight and that the quality problems have now been fixed.
Boeing could start delivering the latest F-15EXs later this summer, though a timeline has not yet been set.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.