Boeing to transform Japanese F-15s into super interceptors capable of keeping pace with F-35s

A Japanese Air Force Self-Defense Force F-15J Eagle during an air show at Misawa Air Force Base, Japan, September 10, 2017 (Sadie Colbert / US Air Force)

Japan has awarded US aerospace giant Boeing Co. a $ 470 million contract to modernize its F-15J Eagle fleet, according to the US Department of Defense.

The upgrades will keep the planes in step with Japan’s growing fleet of next-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters, according to

The contract awarded in December provides for the development of an integrated aircraft system to support the modification of Japan’s F-15MJ aircraft into F-15 super interceptors and the delivery of four weapons training systems.

The contract went to Boeing as part of the Foreign Military Sales program, a US government program to move defense expertise, weapons and other materiel to friendly countries, which foot the bill.

The work will be carried out in Saint-Louis with a completion date of 2028, according to the contract announcement on December 29.

“We are touched by the decision of the Japanese Defense Ministry and the Japanese cabinet to continue work on the F-15 upgrade program,” Boeing spokesman Paul Lewis said in an e- mail Tuesday to Stars and Stripes.

The modified F-15 super interceptors will significantly improve the capabilities of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, Lewis said. The Japanese F-15s were built under license from Boeing by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

“We look forward to enhancing the fleet with next generation technologies that meet Japan’s current and future needs,” said Lewis.

Japan and the United States agreed in 2019 on a $ 4.5 billion program to modernize 98 of the Japanese F-15s, according to a Forbes magazine report. Japan had also planned to equip 68 F-15s with long-range anti-ship missiles made in the United States to defend against ships and landing forces, but the Department of Defense abandoned those plans in August in citing high costs.

The F-15 has electronic systems and weapons to detect, acquire, track, and attack enemy aircraft while operating in friendly or enemy-controlled airspace, according to the US Air Force.

The system upgrades are aimed at helping Japan maintain its air superiority in a harsh environment. Between April 1 and November 30, Japan sent 643 jets to intercept approaching planes, according to the Joint Staff Office. Of these, 486 interceptions were against Chinese planes and 146 against Russian planes.

The Defense Department said in an email Thursday that it could not immediately respond to questions from Stars and Stripes about the F-15 upgrades.

The US Air Force is taking a different direction with its aging fleet of F-15 Eagles. Rather than upgrade, it purchases new F-15EX Eagles. The estimated cost of egress for a single F-15EX is $ 87.7 million, according to

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Jonathan snyder

Jonathan Snyder is a reporter with Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan. Most of his career has been spent as an air combat photojournalist with the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, TX. He is also an alumnus of the Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program and the Eddie Adams Workshop.



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