A reader just sent this. I would say my reader has a valid question. Boeing is proposing putting our newest technology onto an old plane so they might sell the planes to non-US customers. If they get away with this, we lose any measure of technology advance above other countries and interests. This company has been so busy selling or giving away our advantage in the opinion of this observer; the US is in sorry shape now, even without the loss of this particular technology.
Who is minding the store anyway? It seems like every system of security and protection has broken down. Agencies, like many members of Congress are so compromised, that they are not doing their due diligence to protect our citizens and country. It is sad when those who are supposed to be in oversight have forgotten whom they are supposed to be advocating for.
It appears there is so much corruption infiltrating both industry and government, it’s like watching a slow motion multi-car pile up and most of us, feel absolutely unable to do anything to avert the disaster and can only watch our country and national security go down the tube. -GFS
I wonder if Boeing will get this one past the State Department, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls and all those defense agencies that have a stake in its proliferation. Passing any level of Advanced Technology outside of the United States, to even our closest allies, should be contemplated only with the most cautious of trepidation.
Stealthy International F-15 Proposal
Wednesday, April 15, 2009 @ 01:18PM
Boeing Proposes Stealthy F-15
With just about all the future fighter work having gone to Lockheed Martin, Boeing came up with an interesting proposal to keep the old McDonnell Douglas fighter production going.
Boeing got waxed on the ATF and JSF competitions (which resulted in the F-22 and F-35, respectively). While Boeing is doing some work for the F-22 as a subcontractor to Lockheed-Martin, the only fighter programs they have going are evolutions of the decades-old F-15 and F-18. Both programs have evolved astronomically since their inception (e.g. the ground-attack versions of the F-15, the 1/3 upsized F-18E/F programs), and are still quite competitive with 4th-generation fighters such as the Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen. Along with the Lockheed-Martin F-16 of the same generation (which has also been radically evolved), Boeing offers both fighters into a number of international competitions.
But time is running out on the F-15. The US Air Force will be replacing it with the F-22, and the export market is becoming saturated. Most international competitions are looking for newer-generation fighters.
Late last month, Boeing came out with an interesting proposal – “stealthifying” the venerable F-15:
Boeing unveiled the prototype of a new variant of the F-15 Strike Eagle aimed at the Asian and Middle East markets that will incorporate stealthy coatings and structure here on Mar. 17.
Company officials hope the new aircraft will garner up to 190 orders, extending the F-15 line beyond the current backlog of 38 aircraft for South Korea and Singapore. Since the company lost the Joint Strike Fighter contest to Lockheed Martin, the future of its St. Louis manufacturing facility has been uncertain. Continued F-15 sales, as well as additional orders for F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18Gs, are the only work in the foreseeable future for the plant.
Major design changes in the new “Silent Eagle” version include internal bays within the existing conformal fuel tanks that can carry a variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. Each tank will be configured to hold two air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 and AIM-120 or a combination of the two. For the air-to-ground mission, 1,000- and 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions can be carried or four 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs per tank. Weapons loadout can also be split between the AIM-120 and JDAM for a multirole mission. The Silent Eagle configuration includes 15-degree outward-canted V-tails – a shift away from the characteristic vertical fins of the F-15 that reduces the radar cross-section.
Check out the internal weapons storage:
This new plane isn’t going to be cheap:
Jones estimates the cost of a Silent Eagle will be about $100 million per aircraft, including spares, if built new. A retrofit kit including the conformal fuel tanks, DEWS and coatings could be added to existing Strike Eagles, he says.
$100M? That’s not much cheaper than the current target price of the F-35 (~$130M, I believe).
The F-22 isn’t exportable (due to its state-of-the-art stealth and radar/electronic warfare capabilities, not even our closest allies get access to it). The F-35 is likely to be widely exported (the UK, Japan, Israel and a number of smaller NATO countries), although in a downrated form (there’s a lot of debate over the stealth and EW capabilities for export partners.
I actually didn’t take this announcement all that seriously last month – the price tag is just too high, and I’m unconvinced that stealth can be retrofitted this way (in particular, the engine inlets). But with the F-22 being cancelled as part of the DoD 2010 budget rationalization, I could see the Air Force buying some of these proposed upgrade kits for some of its newer F-15s.
This program will be interesting to watch, from both the domestic and international customer perspective. I’ve certainly got to hand it to Boeing for trying this.