The decision to buy new Boeing F-15s reflects the Pentagon’s desire to keep two American companies making fighter jets into the next decade — and not the acting defense secretary’s ties to the company, a senior defense official said Friday.
The 2020 budget request contains $1.1 billion to buy eight F-15X jets, a new variant of an aircraft the Air Force last bought nearly a decade ago. The twin-tailed plane was chosen over Lockheed’s cheaper single-engine F-16 in part to keep a second U.S.manufacturer in the tactical-jet business as the Pentagon begins exploring new technologies for a new generation of warplanes, the official said.
“One of the considerations was the diversity of the industrial base,” the official said. “If we look at something as important as the tactical aircraft industrial base and we look forward into sixth-generation [fighter] production and competition and that kind of stuff,…gaining diversity in that industrial base is going to be critical.”
The senior defense official emphasized that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who formerly worked as a Boeing executive, was not involved in the decision to buy the F-15X.
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