US Air Force’s Most Powerful Air Superiority Fighter Aircraft Will Now Be Powered By GE Instead Of Pratt & Whitney Engines

The US Air Force’s tender for the F-15EX fighter jet’s engine saw a close contest between two big American companies — Pratt and Whitney and General Electric. The former has manufactured the F100 engines for the legendary F-15 Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft.

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The Boeing F-15EX, the latest variant of the Eagle series of warplanes, took its first flight in February this year. Till now, the Air Force has received two of the first eight F-15EX jets, for which it had awarded a contract worth about $1.2 billion in July 2020. The remaining six are expected to be delivered by 2023.

The entire program has a ceiling value of $23 billion. The USAF plans to buy at least 144 F-15EXs to replace the aging F-15C/D fleet. The contract has options that would allow the service to buy up to 200 jets, it says. 

The Engine Contract

The F-15EX will continue to be powered by General Electric’s F100-129 engine, the US Air Force announced on October 29 as it awarded a contract worth $1.58 billion to the US engine maker.

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This announcement formally put an end to the fierce competition between GE Electric and Pratt and Whitney, the only two companies which participated in the tender for engines to power a second lot of F-15EX fighters.

GE has already manufactured the F100-129 engines for the first eight fighter jets. With this contract, GE could end up delivering up to 329 engines for these twin-engine fighter jets.

The twin-engine F-15EX fighter jet (Image courtesy: Boeing)

P&W had offered the latest version of its F100 engine, the F100-PW-229, for the F-15EX contract. “The United States Air Force is proud to partner with General Electric as our engine manufacturer that will power America’s newest, advanced F-15 aircraft”, said Brig. Gen. Dale R. White, USAF’s program executive for fighters or advanced aircraft.

“Not only will it reduce sustainment costs and drive down risk as it replaces our aging F-15C/D fleet, it will also deliver new capabilities that complement the existing and future TACAIR (tactical air) portfolio,” he added.

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The firm-fixed-price deal immediately obligates $137 million for the production of 29 engines. These engines will power all 12 of the Lot 2 aircraft as well as spares. The contract also includes an additional seven options throughout the duration of the program.

The deliveries of these engines will commence in October 2023 and will conclude in June 2031, the Air Force said in a statement.

General Electric’s F110-129 engine, that will power the F-15EX fleet. (Image: USAF)

Initially, the Air Force thought of sole-sourcing the GE engine as it had already been certified for Qatar’s F-15QA as well as Saudi Arabia’s F-15SA, since these aircraft form the basis of the EX-variant of the twin-seater fighter jet.

However, Pratt and Whitney filed a protest against USAF’s sole-source strategy last year. This prompted the service to give up its sole-source strategy, as reported by Air Force Magazine.

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Pratt and Whitney said they were disappointed that the USAF finally rejected their engine. “We were disappointed to learn that the US Air Force did not select our offering, the industry-leading F100-PW-229”, a Pratt and Whitney spokesman said.

“We believe that we offered the most trusted, proven engine with the overall best value to the USAF for the F-15EX propulsion competition; which would deliver high performance, reliability, and mission readiness for its F-15EX fleet.”

The twin-engine F-15EX jet. (GE Image)

Meanwhile, General Electric said the company is excited to deliver engines for the entire fleet of F-15EX jets.

“The F110 production line is active today and ready to deliver on the U.S. Air Force’s urgent and compelling requirement for an F-15EX propulsion system”, Shawn Warren, GE’s vice president and general manager of combat and trainer engines, said.

“We’re pleased with the engine’s performance on the two F-15EX test aircraft flying today, and we’re excited to bring that performance to the entire planned fleet.”