Boeing eyes risk-sharing, lower costs for $100 million F-15SE

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Boeing is seeking risk-sharing partners to develop a new version of the F-15E Strike Eagle that adds stealth characteristics and a new electronic warfare suite to the multi-role fighter.

The risk-sharing deals would shorten the timeline to develop the renamed F-15 Silent Eagle, which possibly would lower its estimated $100 million cost, Chris Chadwick, president of the military aircraft division, said on 3 June at a media roundtable hosted by Boeing.

The possible co-investment deals is one of the reasons, he added, that the $100 million price estimate that Boeing quoted at the 17 March launch ceremony may no longer be valid.

"I wouldn't give a price like $100 million," he said. "And here's why: for example, suppose Saudi Arabia decides to procure some F-15s. And they procure 24, 48 or whatever. That gives me an opportunity then to go an invest in my factory to accelerate cost reduction, to continue to lean it out and to continue to make it even more producible."

Chadwick said the risk-sharing partners could come from both foreign and domestic companies.

BAE Systems is Boeing's major supplier for the F-15SE, providing the all-new digital electronic warfare system (DEWS). BAE also supplies the electronic warfare suite for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Boeing claims the F-15SE's DEWS would offer the same level of capability.

The F-15SE is aimed at challenging the F-35 on the foreign market, with Boeing targeting existing F-15 operators Israel, Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia for potential sales.

Israel has launched a foreign military sales case to buy up to 50 F-35s, but the discussions have reportedly dragged out over price and technology access issues.

"The reason Israel has slowed down on the JSF is because of the price," said Chadwick, speaking to reporters during a media roundtable hosted by Boeing.

"The worse time you can buy a fighter is during the initial stages because the capability comes along later and the learning comes along later," he said.

The F-15SE also remains in discussions with the US government about export release, Chadwick said.

Boeing claims that the F-15SE's frontal aspect radar cross section will match the international release standard for the F-35.

However, both Lockheed and JSF programme officials dismiss that statement.

"What [Boeing] is talking about makes no sense," Brig Gen David Heinz, the F-35 programme executive, said at a 2 June press conference.

Heinz said the F-35 sold overseas will not have a reduced stealth profile compared to US jets, and that the F-35's stealth characteristics are inherently superior to the F-15.