F-15E: No new orders, but Boeing’s not panicking

F15SE 560 thumb.jpgIn June 2010, Boeing told us that the F-15 needed a new order by the end of that year or there could be at least a temporary break in the production line.

Sixteen months later, Boeing is still waiting for that order to materialize, yet nobody seems to be panicking. The F-15 has been in continuous production for 40 years, and is one of five active fighter production lines in the US. Yet, both the F-15 and the F-22 could be shut down next year in the absence of new orders. We know the F-22 has no chance, but the F-15′s status is more murky.

It seemed like the F-15′s future was guaranteed only one year ago. The Obama Administration notified Congress on 21 October last year that Saudi Arabia had requested a possible sale of 72 F-15Es.

But something funny happened on the way to the bank. Saudi Arabia has still not signed the contract, and we’re not sure why. Lingering concerns by the Israeli lobby may have something to do with it. The Arab Spring revolts in the Middle East also might make the Saudi regime more cautious about making big splurges on weapons programmes. But those are just theories. Boeing refers all questions about the Saudi deal to the US government, and they aren’t returning our phone calls.

Boeing, however, does not seem publicly worried. There are no C-17-style rallies on the factory floor in St. Louis, with friendly politicians raising awareness about the possibility of massive job cuts in the event of a production line shutdown. 

There are, of course, a few options for preserving the production line. The F-15SE Silent Eagle is in competition in South Korea, although that contract award is not scheduled until next October. Meanwhile, the Saudi deal can still happen. Perhaps, that’s why the company released this optimistic-sounding statement yesterday, when we asked the company to clarify when the F-15E backlog runs out.

“With a number of pending international sales opportunities for a highly capable, proven, affordable aircraft like the F-15, it is premature and inappropriate for us to even speculate on when the production line might close,” Boeing said.


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