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Boeing started the flight test program for the F-15SE Silent Eagle on July 9. The long-serving F-15E1 prototype took off with a modified port conformal fuel tank (CFT) structure that incorporates a single weapons bay door and an AIM-120 launcher mounted on a trapeze. The test plan calls for an unguided AIM-120 launch. Last week, F-15 development programs director Brad Jones confirmed that Boeing had signed a memorandum of agreement with a non-US partner that will design and build the definitive conformal weapons bay (CWB) structure if the program goes ahead. The partner is asking not to be identified, but given that the CWB is a relatively complex system and that the primary sales target for the F-15SE is Korea, the most likely candidate is Korean Aerospace Industries. Jones also confirmed that, earlier this year, Boeing agreed with the Pentagon on a specification for the exportable radar cross-section (RCS) reduction package for the F-15SE. This followed RCS tests in the company's near-field range in St Louis, and makes it possible to apply for export licenses on a case-by-case basis. Boeing is continuing to deliver F-15Ks to Korea, and the first of a second batch of 21 Slam Eagles made its first flight in April. Jones says that many of the SE modifications could be retrofitted to existing aircraft, but the main objective of the Silent Eagle program is the deployment of new-production aircraft. Some SE features - like the digital fly-by-wire system, radar processor and large cockpit displays - are similar to the F/A-18E/F, according to Boeing. Although the avionics architectures of the two jets are different enough to prevent software from being transferred from one to another, some of the sensor fusion and networking technology developed for the Super Hornet could read across to the F-15SE.
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