Boeing unveiled a stealthy version of the F-15, dubbed the "Silent Eagle" today at its St Louis plant. (Update: Full story here.) The aircraft has two conformal fuel tanks reconfigured to carry up to two air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons, and tail fins canted outwards 15 deg. to reduce radar cross-section.
Added to these is a new digital electronic warfare designed to work with the F-15's active electronically scanned radar. Radar absorbing coatings and inlet radar blockers could be added to make the fighter more stealthy, says Boeing.
Brad Jones, F-15 future programs manager here in St Louis, hopes to sell as many a 190 of the new F-15s to South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Not on the list is the U.S. Air Force, which has been solidly focused on buying only fifth-generation fighters for its future fleet. Boeing officials, not wanting to raise the ire of the service, say they are targeting only international customers.
Cost of the Silent Eagle is expected to be around $100 million for a new-build aircraft. You think the Air Force will bite, or hope this one doesn't muddle the F-22/F-35 plan?
Graham Warwick writes:
Silent Eagle would seem to prove wrong the adage that stealth can't be retrofitted. It has been before, witness the coated canopies and RAM-lined inlets on F-16s, only not on this scale (at least not publicly). And it appears to be limited to front-aspect stealth.
The modification seems designed to compound the range advantage provided by the newest F-15E's powerful active electronically scanned array radar and sensitive digital electronic warfare system by making it harder for enemy aircraft and air defenses to detect and track the big fighter.
There have to be penalities. Concealing weapons inside the conformal fuel tanks must reduce their capacity, and to preserve stealth external tanks and weapons cannot be carried under the wing. But reinstalling the original conformal tanks would restore the F-15E to its old long-range, heavy-payload self.
AMRAAM deployment from the internal bays. Artwork: Boeing
My question has to be, can anyone follow suit and retrofit stealth to their fighter? Boeing's own F/A-18E/F already has some stealth features, including inlet blockers and edge treatments, but it does not have those convenient conformal tanks in which to hide weapons - or any obvious place to put an internal weapons bay.
It is similar for F-16, which is also unlikely to get a stealth makeover as it would compete with Lockheed Martin's F-35. Gripen, Eurofighter and Rafale do not have any obvious places to hide weapons, although there is work afoot on stealthy pylons to reduce the radar cross-section penalties of carrying external weapons.
So is this the start of a trend, or is there more - or less - to Boeing's bolt-on stealth than meets the eye?