FARNBOROUGH, England -- There may be a new-old fighter jet on the horizon for the U.S. Air Force.
DefenseOne reports that Boeing Co. is pitching a new version of the F-15 Eagle as the service defines its inventory mix of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft.
Known as F-15X, the fighter would be equipped with better avionics and radars and would carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles, DefenseOne said, citing unnamed officials with knowledge of the plans.
The strategy would mimic what Boeing did with its Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet: taking an old concept, but boosting the jet fleets to be more potent in current and future missions with a larger variety of weapons, extended range, advanced targeting and sensor systems, and better fuel efficiency, among other enhancements.
"We see the marketplace expanding internationally," Gene Cunningham, vice president at Boeing for Global Sales for Defense, Space & Security, told reporters at the Royal International Air Tattoo on Friday. "And it's creating opportunities then to go back and talk to the U.S. Air Force about what might be future upgrades or even potentially future acquisitions of the F-15 aircraft."
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Boeing on Wednesday did not have further comment beyond Cunningham's remarks.
The move comes as officials in recent months have considered retiring the older F-15C/D fleet.
Last March, officials told lawmakers they were looking at plans to retire the two models as early as the mid-2020s. The service has 212 F-15C and 24 F-15D models, according to the Air Force Association's 2017 aircraft inventory almanac.
Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice at the time said the service as a total force was in "deep discussions" regarding the retirement, with plans to further assess the F-15 inventory this year.
But the service is determining what it may procure for its combat-coded fleet going forward.
The Air Force is expected to soon debut its aviation road map on just how many fighter aircraft, and potentially other aircraft, it needs to sustain the future fight.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in May told Military.com the study may also outline the direction for how it trains and retains pilots for certain platforms.
Congress directed the service in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to study the number of fighter and combat-coded squadrons it needs to plus-up to in order to remain ready, she said, similar to what the Navy recently did with its 355-ship plan.
"What do we really need for force structure under this National Defense Strategy … that work is underway now," Wilson said in an interview. "We have a first look that's due in August, and a report due to Congress in March.
"We've been directed to prepare for the re-emergence of great power competition," she said. "We have 301 operational squadrons today of all types, but how many do we really need and what types to confront this threat?"
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214