Warplanes: F-15E Forever

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November 27,2008: 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.

Russia was 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.

 


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