A top Boeing executive has added a new piece to the UAE's fighter modernisation puzzle, saying that the US government has delivered classified briefings about the capabilities of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-15E Strike Eagle.
Neither aircraft has been mentioned in the past as among the options for replacing the UAE air force's fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000-9s. The UAE has been negotiating with France for the Dassault Rafale since 2008, and within the last two weeks asked the Eurofighter Typhoon to submit a rival bid.
But UAE officials are still casting an even wider net as they consider all of their fighter modernisation requirements, said Jeff Kohler, Boeing vice-president of military business development.
In August or September, the UAE formally requested classified briefings on the F-15 and F/A-18, Kohler said, which the US government obliged.
The briefings were not followed by the issuing of a request for proposals from Boeing, as Eurofighter has received. However, Kohler believes the UAE's interests in the Boeing fighters may be aimed at long-term requirements.
On 12 November, the UAE air force announced plans to acquire a "next generation fighter" in the 2018-2025 timeframe.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter (JSF) has been previously named by the UAE as a potential acquisition target. But briefing requests may indicate that the F/A-18E/F and the F-15 Silent Eagle are also in the discussion, Kohler said. With the exception of all-aspect very low observability, or stealth, the F-15SE and F/A-18E/F international roadmap variant share many of the same sensor, avionics and weapons capabilities with the F-35.
"I think [UAE officials] would be interested, depending on exactly what they want," Kohler said.