The US Air Force has seized an opportunity to save millions of dollars on the maintenance of its F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft by recycling wings from Saudi Air Force F-15S fighters.
The US Air Force needed newer wings to keep the birds flying through 2040 as Saudi Arabia happened to be in the process of converting over 60 of its F-15S fighter to the newer F-15SA standard.
Production lead time for new wings from the original equipment manufacturer was about five years and five times the cost of a refurbished F-15SA wing.
That is why the 409th Supply Chain Management Squadron, along with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s F-15 Program Office and F-15SA Conversion, Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Program Office at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, worked together for the US Air Force to acquire the Saudi Air Force’s refurbished F-15SA wings instead.
Joe Hudson, F-15 Structures section chief in the 409th SCMS, who is a member of the F-15 Saudi Wings Team that was charged with procuring wings for the jets, said the deal saved the US Air Force $80 million on eight sets of wings in Fiscal Year 2020, with a potential savings of $250 million with future buys.
“In June 2018, the 409th SCMS partnered with the F-15 System Program Office, the F-15 Foreign Military Saudi case manager, and Worldwide Redistribution Service representatives to determine the feasibility of purchasing Royal Saudi Air Force F-15SA wings that were removed during a fleet retrofit and scheduled for destruction,” he said.
After completing a business case analysis of several wing procurement initiatives, Hudson said the decision was made to buy the F-15SA wings.
Lt. Col. Matthew Pope, deputy security assistance program manager for AFLCMC’s F-15SA Conversion, Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, said during the conversion process, the F-15S wings are removed and would otherwise be scrapped or demilitarized, but his team worked out an alternative arrangement that benefitted all involved.
Pope’s office, along with the F-15SA sustainment team, coordinated with the RSAF director of programs, to staff and obtain final signatures on the memorandum of understanding for purchase of the initial eight sets of wings, with the possibility to buy up to 42 more sets.
After obtaining the proper approvals, Pope said the F-15SA Conversion Team coordinated with an aerospace organization out of Saudi Arabia for packaging, inspection, and shipping of the initial eight sets of wings that were delivered to Robins in August 2020.
Eric Wietstruk, F-15 product support manager in the AFLCMC’s F-15 Program Office at Robins, said the F-15SA wings provide a viable and cost effective option for replacing some of the F-15E wings that are beyond economical repair.
“The purchase of the F-15SA wings will open up opportunities to procure other aircraft parts resulting from the F-15 Saudi aircraft conversion program that will benefit the warfighter at a reduced cost,” he said.
The F-15SA wings are scheduled to be installed on aircraft during programmed depot maintenance in 2021.