Video: Boeing unveils the “stealthy” F-15 Silent Eagle

If you’re 1) in charge of a major world air force, 2) need a new air defense fighter and 3) not sure if you can afford or gain access to a fifth generation fighter, check this out.


Boeing F-15E.jpg
Stephen Trimble/Flight



Boeing today unveiled the V-tailed F-15 Silent Eagle, the most significant refresh of the venerable air superiority fighter since the F-15E Strike Eagle entered service in 1988.


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Credit: Boeing/Ron Bookout


It’s still not quite a fifth-generation fighter, but it’s not intendedto be. For instance, the F-15SE is not going to slip stealthily intodefended airspace and wipe out a surface-to-air missile battery. That’sstill the job of the all-aspect stealthy F-22 or B-2.

Boeingoptimized the F-15SE to reduce the aircraft’s head-on radar crosssection. That’s not going to fool a ground-based SAM radar, but it willmake it harder for an enemy fighter entering the merge to lock-on toyour aircraft with a radar-guided missile.



But the project raises a number of very interesting questions.

First, Boeing says the F-15SE can match the frontal-aspect stealth performance of the export version of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.The precise level stealth allowed to be exported to foreign countriesis still to be determined by the US authorities who govern technologytransfer rules. Will international F-35 customers be disappointed ifthey find out a fourth-generation fighter can match theirfight-generation fighter’s head-on performance?

Second, Boeing says they’re not offering the F-15SE to the US Air Force,but could the single-largest F-15 customer in the world be tempted?Obviously, the USAF is committed to buying a fifth-generation-onlyfleet of F-22s and F-35s, but if costs, schedule delays or performanceproblems start mounting, could the service be driven to “settle” forimproved F-15s?


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Credit: Boeing/Ron Bookout

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35 Responses to Video: Boeing unveils the “stealthy” F-15 Silent Eagle

  1. Mark Braun 17 March, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    Isn’t this about two weeks early(4/01/09??)…Just wondering??

  2. J3 17 March, 2009 at 8:17 pm #

    Seems to me this new F-15 is aimed directly at the Sukoi 30MKI and other derivatives of that plane. After all, the Russians are offering it as a 4 1/2 generation fighter, nearly equal to the F-22 but not quite, while the Indians claim they can beat current F-15s with their Sukois. The Sukois will be the best available from Russia for years. There will be no F-22 equivalent. Thus, the market to counter them is likely to be large, and with the new F-15 you get a Sukoi killer for $100M without paying $140M for an F-22 (which the US is not likely to sell anyhow). Maybe Boeing will add the new F-15 to the F-18E as a candidate for the Indian order for 126 strike aircraft. I never understood why Boeing have not offered the F-15E or some F-15I, K, or S equivalent for that order.

    The USAF may be very interested in this new F-15 for long range strike because it now plans to maintain only about 200 F-15Es thru 2035 and may need more, and is not likely to get more in the form of a strike version of the F-22. If the AF were interested you can bet Boeing will find a way to lower the price substantially. After all, they are presently delivering F-18E/Fs with AESA rador for about $150M.

  3. mike wheatley 17 March, 2009 at 9:38 pm #

    Well played, Boeing, well played indeed.

    I see this selling exceptionally well. Even to the USAF – who may not have a stated requirement, however, their financial pressures make this very attractive, if not to the USAF themselves, then to their paymasters in Washington. (Which I personally would regard as a good thing for the USAF.)

    Consider how this plays to the Australian Airpower situation! The big problems were:
    - F22 not available for export.
    - F22 not affordable.
    - F35 not optimal for air-to-air
    - F35 short ranged, a problem for the large distances of Australia.
    - Flanker AAMs being so powerful against legacy non-stealthy fighters.
    This ~should~ have a dramatic impact in their debate.

    Also,
    My stong suspicion is that all-aspect stealth is only a force multiplier if used offensively, and the costs cause it to be a force divider when used defensively, or against sensor-poor opponents.
    On this basis, whould it not be best if the USAF used this F-15SE as the F-15C and F-16 (interceptor/CAP/ground support) replacement? This would then free up funds to evolve the F-22 into an F/A/B-22 (offensive anti-air/SEAD/strike) replacement for the F-15E, surely a better use of its stealth?
    I.e. instead of cleaving the high/low mix between “air superiority” vs “multi role”, instead cleave the high/low mix between “stealth matters alot” vs “stealth doesn’t matter much”.

  4. Vijainder K Thakur 17 March, 2009 at 11:17 pm #

    As a Su-30 killer the Silent Eagle makes a lot of sense.

    As to why Boeing offered the Super Hornet to India and not the Strike Eagle I suspect it is because it wants to keep both aircraft assembly lines going and the IAF, despite the minimal difference in the Max weight of the two aircraft, regards the Strike Eagle as a heavy that does not fit the first M in the MMRCA requirement.

    There has been talk of conformal tanks on the Super Hornet, both to increase its range and make it more stealthy.

  5. sferrin 18 March, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    Those “bays” are a damn site slower than the F-22s. ;-) BTW Boeing can claim anything they want because they know there’s no way they’ll be called on to prove it. The idea that it matches the F-35 from the front is actually pretty damn funny considering it’s a straight shot for the radar to see right down the intakes. Oops.

  6. Surfcaster 18 March, 2009 at 12:47 am #

    “Isn’t this about two weeks early(4/01/09??)…Just wondering??”

    I was thinking the same thing but Boeing actually had the press release: http://boeing.com/news/releases/2009/q1/090317a_nr.html

    Wonder how much?

  7. Sven Ortmann 18 March, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    I doubt that the price difference to F-22 is big enough to treat this as a proper air superiority fighter for the USAF. The air combat capability doesn’t seem to be better than the latest F15E’s anyway.

    The equipment in the presentation hints rather at just another STRIKE eagle generation, for customers like Republic of Korea, UAE, Australia, Spain, Turkey, Canada and possibly Poland.

    The Indians have likely access to the whole Flanker family including Su-34, a strike aircraft of great range and good commonality with their Su-30′s.

    The “internal” weapons are confusing, though. The load is not better than the normal C/D/E load under the fuselage (4 MRAAM) was.

    They had plans for a major face-lift with bigger wings sometime in the 90′s, for better range and payload if I remember correctly. Really major fuselage/wing upgrades of the F-15 were so far never adopted for quantity production.

    My personal opinion is that the F/A-18E/F/G projects are enough air power for the USA, not a single USAF fighter is really necessary with so many modern allies, such a good geo-strategic position and so few opponents.
    A good foreign policy is better for national security than a thousand stealth fighters could ever be.

  8. ikkeman 18 March, 2009 at 7:16 am #

    $100M a piece. How does that stack against the reported $100M+ per F-35 for Israel.
    With the F-35 appearing overweight and underspec, could this be a JSF killer? I’m sure the F-15E at least has comparable kinematic performance to the F-35, F-15 range will be better (with standard conformal tanks), Payload is much greater and I think the twin seat will be a benefit to most operators.

  9. Veltro71 18 March, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    Maybe Boeing will receive call for someone in the US Gov. and this one will pull CEO’s ears very much. US can’t risk his firms will loose their F-35′s contracts with foreing clients.

  10. mike wheatley 18 March, 2009 at 9:51 am #

    @ Sven:

    Re: “The “internal” weapons are confusing, though. The load is not better than the normal C/D/E load under the fuselage (4 MRAAM) was.”

    Yes – something I’d love to know – what is the signature difference between internal carriage, and flush external mounts? Sadly, the people who do know, probably shouldn’t tell us.

    However, I note that the F-22 doesn’t have any flush external mounts, which probably answers the question.

    I.e. if there were small pits in the wings for e.g. two pairs of BAe ASRAAM, (which has very small fins,) would it really have a large impact on the stealth characteristics of an F-22 or F-35? (Assuming here that the plane had been designed with ejectors, embedded in the wing above these hardpoints.)

  11. J3 18 March, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Two typos in my piece yesterday. Boeing is offering the Indians the F-18F not E, and currently sells them for $50M not $150M. Sorry.

  12. EG 18 March, 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    New build only? Or can an older F-15 be retrofitted? Maybe there is some mod money here for Boeing.

  13. Constant Reader 19 March, 2009 at 2:19 am #

    It’s a good thing a consortium of US ‘allies’ unable to get (or afford) the F-22 and F-35 don’t group together to buy Su-30 airframes and fit them out with Western engines, avionics and weapon systems.

    Stealth’s a Godsend for offensive applications, but when it comes to defence there’s still a lot to be said about overwhelming numbers of low-tech (relatively speaking) aircraft with very high-tech weaponry. Especially on a bang-for-your buck basis.

    If your nation has no intention to invade your neighbour, let the aggressors have the few stealth planes they can afford and stock up on well-armed Gen IV aircraft and a first rate radar defence system.

    If the US wants your help somewhere else, let them supply the hardware. After all, if you’re 233 years old you should have figured out how to share.

  14. Simpilot 19 March, 2009 at 6:52 am #

    Well it seems that the “teens” are really being “pimped” right now.

    The guys at Lockheed Martin might be a bit unhappy, but most Air Force procurement types might really be happy.

    This was on the cards ever since the F16 got “maximised”.

    The Flanker/F15/F18 frames are for sure the most “workable” airframes out there. US airpower had always depended on big sturdy airframes and it have paid handsome dividends. Great play by the Australians to ready some of the Super Hornets to become Growlers. Is there still a place for single seat versions of these three body types?

    Most likely the ever improving CAV’s will be fine to take over missions that was normally done by the lightweight fighters- especially in the Isreali case where distance is not a problem.

    The Australian situation is quite different, and the pilotless combat plane might just prove as unpractical as the gunless combat plane of the 60/70′s, as a total doctrine.

    Would also be interesting to see if such an enhanced Eagle will get thrust vectoring engines.

    F35 should be kept for its S/VTOL capabilities- because its just trying to tick too many boxes without doing anything THAT well.

  15. AirShowFan 23 March, 2009 at 7:01 pm #

    The pictures don’t look that stealthy.

    Sure, internal stores will help. And maybe the canted tails. But look at those rectangular air intakes! And you can probably see the compressor blades right there!

    Taking an existing airplane and applying minor tweaks (serpentine and non-rectangular intakes, bay-door edges not perpendicular to the free-stream direction) to significantly reduce nose-on RCS is a good idea, and has been done on the Super Hornet and B-1B. (Most new European fighters include some of these features too). But it doesn’t look like it was done here, even though it was supposed to be the whole point, as far as I can tell. Am I missing something? Is this thing more of a mock-up, or are the internal weapons bays really supposed to significantly decrease RCS?

    (And while I work for Boeing, I know nothing about this project except what has been revealed publicly (I had no idea it existed, until yesterday) and know nothing about stealth except what’s written in Bill Sweetman’s books on the subject, which are great by the way).

  16. m-1 25 March, 2009 at 11:31 pm #

    Too little too late? Could/should have done this 10 years ago. Do hope they try same hack on the Hornet- we all know it cant even spit without extra grape juice tanks…

  17. M Smith 26 March, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    F-20 Tigershark anyone? I believe the F-15SE makes sense on the basis its competitor ,the F-35 is a Single engine ,$80 million a copy aircraft. Thats alot of $$$ to take up in air with only 1 turbofan.

  18. Travis F-22/F-35/F-15 Lover 20 April, 2009 at 3:51 am #

    You guys are Idiots for one We need a stealthy F-15 to help assure Dominace If you IDIOTS rerember the F-15 has assured air dominace for years now….And has Never been downed by a Enemy Aircraft and is STILL the best (exept for the F-22) fighter, you can take any Suped up Su-Whatever any day Agianst a 30 year old F-15.The f-15 is Still going to Smoke it…I think we need this fighter Stealth capabilities Can make it a second hand fighter To help assure Air Superiority We need it Consitering Russias Pak-Fa and Chinas J-xx….I think this Eagle Would be great We need the F-35 and F-15E for a Multi fighter. The F-22 and F-15 for Air Dominace. The F-22 and F-15 are a great team and Allot alike.Glad to see the F-15 is not Going out of service Just Yet!

  19. Narnna 11 May, 2009 at 11:07 pm #

    I think the main reason behind the F-15 not being put forward to the IAF as opposed to the F/A 18 is that the Indians are buying the Russian carrier Admiral Gorshkov which is currently being reburbished as the INS Vikramaditya.

  20. FLT SGT 15 May, 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    Boeing did state that they can and will upgrade current F-15E’s that are operated by thier costumers. They also briefed the USAF on this fighter. Personally I hope they upgrade our current F-15′s and buy additional raptors, forget the F-35 for the USAF, let the marines or the navy have those.

  21. "Sniper" 22 July, 2009 at 7:58 am #

    Today with cost going higher, the resurection of F-20 would beat the market for a low cost fighter.
    It would not be as capable as the F-15 or Su-35 for
    payload, range and speed, but it would mix it with
    anybody in a dogfight. If a well flown F-5, which has
    lower power, can kick butt, for sure the F-20 can

  22. SSgt Patsch F-15 Jet engine mech 30 July, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    The bay doors are electrically motorized for display only. I’m sure they will open and close as quickly as the landing gear doors under engine hydro pressure. Obviously its not running in the building so they had to use something.

  23. SSgt Patsch F-15 Jet engine mech 30 July, 2009 at 7:14 pm #

    The inlet fan on the engine is 21 feet back from the leading edge of the intake, Unless you have a death wish you can not see the blades.

  24. A-SHOPPER 2 September, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    No offense…. But the pictures on this site make the silent eagle look like a Dachshund (wiener dog). I love America and the F-15. I think selling a “stelthy” model to someone ther than the US government is in my opinion unethical and unamerican.

  25. Cliff Sampson 31 October, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    The F-15SE is an good financial solution for the so called fighter gap. The current F-15s are too old. The F-22 Raptor is ridiculously expensive. I love to see the air force get more F-22s but, due to the price tag and other short-comings the Silent Eagle is the way to go!

  26. azpp 27 December, 2009 at 1:54 am #

    Probably a sitting duck for a S-300 or S-400 SAM

  27. Jaspie 27 May, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    I think a good powerfull fighter for the Netherlands too. Not so expensive like the JFS. The F15 have a very good history (32 TFS Soesterberg) and safety records (landing with only one wing in Israel). So send the F15 back to The Netherlands.

  28. John Galt 16 June, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    On thing Boeing might consider is the inlet. Other posters mention that as a big RCS issue. If the max speed of the aircraft were reduced to under M2.0 the aircraft wouldn’t need a variable inlet. This would allow for cost and weight reductions that could be spent on stealth.

  29. Philly transplant USAF Retired 11 August, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    Good Show Boeing, Now just to make a good thing Better have those aircraft come with a standard GE F110-132 engine which will allow it to fly tighter and faster then the E models currently out there. The throttle responsiveness of the GE engines is second to none coupled with the High Reliability.

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