USAF Fighter Force Procurement: A Comparative Analysis of the F-35 and F-15EX Programs

ARLINGTON, VA (September 8, 2020) — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce a new entry in its Mitchell Forum short paper series, “Procurement for the United States Air Force’s Future Fighter Capabilities: A Comparative Analysis of the F-35 and F-15EX Programs” by U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Kade J. Leonard. An Electrical and Computer Engineering major, Leonard intends to pursue a career as an Air Force pilot.

As the Air Force anticipates a new period of great power competition, current procurement decisions take on an increasingly critical role. Chief among these is the choice between procuring the F-15EX or expanding the F-35 program. Given the changing threat environment, not only has the criteria necessary to evaluate the two options altered, but this decision also has long-term strategic implications. No longer can the aircraft be compared using purely physical characteristics; they must be analyzed with an eye toward preparing for future combat and future force needs. This mission-centric focus in program analysis sheds new light on the capacity of the F-35 to meet the future needs of the Air Force and emphasizes the importance of prioritizing the F-35 program.

The Forum presents innovative concepts and thought-provoking insight from aerospace experts here in the United States and across the globe. To afford publishing opportunities for thoughtful perspectives, the Forum provides high visibility to writing efforts spanning issues from technology and operational concepts to defense policy and strategy.

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