F-15 upgrades essential

Lakenheath Wing Commander talks to Combat Aircraft

A career F-15C pilot, Col Robert Novotny is the current commander of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath. In an exclusive interview with Combat Aircraft, which will appear in our August issue, Col Novotny enthused the 493rd FS ‘Grim Reapers’, the F-15C unit in his wing. The ‘Reaper’ Eagles are currently undergoing one of the type’s most significant evolutions with the retrofit of the new Raytheon AN/APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. ‘In the air it’s phenomenal’, says Col Novotny. ‘It’s a game changer. I’ve flown every radar variant in the F-15C, V0 right up to the V3. With this new radar we have long-range detection, multi-target tracking, the ability to work combat identification while continuing to sanitize the airspace, even in an environment where there may be jamming present.’

Further enhancing the long-range qualities of the F-15C, this new radar is now being coupled with the latest standard of Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), Raytheon’s AIM-120D. ‘I’ve worked with AIM-120D and I’m very happy with where we’re at’, comments Col Novotny. ‘We just sent the 493rd FS to Tyndall and they did the first operational AIM-120D shots — they were eye watering! Range, performance, reliability, you name it: the 120D did exceptionally well.’

One of the major areas for both the F-15C and the Strike Eagle that needs to be addressed is the offensive and defensive electronic warfare systems. The Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System (EPAWSS) is planned for both fleets — it is designed to sample the RF spectrum, identify threats, prioritize and allocate jamming resources against them.

Col Novotny commented on EPAWSS: ‘This is a holistic system that both the F-15C and the F-15E will benefit from. We need EPAWSS desperately; the modern SAM [surface-to-air missile] threat is a rapidly evolving and proliferating challenge. Countries that were not previously considered a contested environment can now be just that without significant capital expenditure. One of the other major factors is that modern SAMs are nearly all mobile, they all use active AESA technology, they have counter-jam technology coupled with very long ranges’. This is why the USAF is so keen to get systems like EPAWSS online for its fourth-gen’ fighters.

Read more in the August edition of Combat Aircraft, which will be on sale from early July.