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Comment: Coming in under the radar

If Boeing's claims about its "stealthy" F-15 Silent Eagle are accurate, Lockheed Martin might have some explaining to do to international customers of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The F-15SE's selling points include reduced head-on radar signature, achieved mainly with radar-absorbing coatings, that Boeing claims gives it frontal aspect stealth parity with the export-approved version of the F-35. That's good going for a model derived from a 40-year-old design that pre-dates stealth technology.

To be fair, the claim may actually say more about the restrictions on export technology for the F-35 than the true stealth capability of the F-15SE.

But, in any event, the F-35's international customers could be excused for wondering whether they should share the cost and risk of developing an all-new, fifth-generation fighter whose technology can apparently be matched by modifying a design that's been proven over nearly four decades of service.

And, although the bizarre cost alchemy of military programmes makes price a stealthy target, governments with an eye on their budgets will note that while US government estimates peg an average F-35 at $120 million, Boeing is offering the F-15SE for $100 million.

The US Joint Programme Office and Lockheed need to clarify how the F-35's frontal-aspect stealth profile compares to F-15SE technology.

F-15 Silent Eagle
 © Boeing

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