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Japan contracts Boeing for F-15 Super Interceptor upgrade

JASDF F-15J takeoff
JASDF file photo of an F-15J fighter

Japan’s program to upgrade its F-15 fighters to a “Super Interceptor” variant has taken another step forward with a contract award for Boeing.

According to a US defense department announcement from December 30, Boeing – the original developer of the twin-engine F-15 – will receive $471.3 million for the design and development of an integrated suite of aircraft systems.

This work will support the modification of the Japan Air Self Defense Force F-15MJ aircraft and the development, test, and delivery of four Weapon System Trainers.

According to previous releases, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will be the main contractor for the upgrade and will be supported by Boeing. MHI produced the current Japan F-15J fleet of over 200 aircraft between 1980 and 2000 under license from the US.

The Eagles are now set to receive a new advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, in addition to a modernized cockpit system, running on upgraded mission computers for enhanced situational awareness.

An announcement from July 2020 said Boeing would provide MHI with retrofit drawings, ground support equipment and technical publications for the upgrade of the first two F-15J aircraft to the Japan Super Interceptor configuration.

The contract award from December 30 is a major step forward in the program after it previously came to a halt in 2020 due to unexpected costs. One of the solutions to the rising costs, which were influenced by the absence of an active production line among other factors, was to abandon plans to integrate the LRASM anti-ship cruise missile on the Eagle.

According to local reports, the total planned cost of the F-15 upgrade will now be $3.5 billion. The price was revealed after the US State Department first cleared Japan for $4.5 billion worth of upgrades to its 98 F-15Js.

As the main interceptor of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, F-15J is poised to support the new F-35A that are entering service.