The U.S. Air Force now plans to operate its 36 ton U.S. F-15E (a two seat
fighter bomber version of the 31 ton F-15C fighter) for at least another ten
years, and probably longer. In service for twenty years now, the F-15E can
carry up to 11 tons of bombs and missiles, along with a targeting pod and an
internal 20mm cannon. It's an all weather aircraft that can fly one-way up to
3,900 kilometers. It uses in-flight refueling to hit targets anywhere on the
planet. Smart bombs made the F-15 particularly efficient. The backseater handles the electronics and bombing,
and the F-15E remains a potent air-superiority fighter, making it an
exceptional combat aircraft. This success prompted Israel, Saudi Arabia, South
Korea and Singapore to buy it, paying about $100 million per aircraft. In the U.S.
Air Force, the F-15E is one of the most popular aircraft for combat pilots to
fly, even more so than the new F-22.
prompted to develop their own F-15E. This resulted in the 45 ton Su-34, which
was yet another variant of the 33 ton Su-27. A few dozen Su-34s are planned, at
a cost of $36 million each (less than half the cost of an F-15E). The Su-34 has
a full set of defensive and offensive sensors (radars, targeting cameras, laser
designators) and electronic warfare gear, and can carry eight tons of missiles
and smart bombs. The Su-34 was in the works for several years, and earlier
versions of two seater Su-27 bombers were known as the Su-32.