Silent Eagle

Or, Death of the Raptor

f15_silent_eagle_1F-15SE Silent Eagle.  Boeing Media photo by Ron Bookout.

In what is no doubt irresistible music to SecDef Robert Gates’ ears, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems has decided to remarket the 37-year-old F-15 Eagle in a semi-stealthy new configuration.

The F-15SE (or Silent Eagle) features several improvements over currently-serving C- and E-model Eagles, including:

  • Vertical stabilizers (tails) canted outward at 15 degrees, reducing the aircraft’s radar cross-section.
  • Internal weapons bays in new conformal fuel tanks (CFTs).  The CFT bays can carry a mix of air-air and air-ground munitions [AIM-9s, AIM-120s, 500-1000 pound JDAMs, 250 pound SDBs, etc].  Because of the loss of CFT fuel volume, the Silent Eagle’s range will be reduced by 180-200nm, but the operator can always elect to use ordinary CFTs without weapon stowage.
  • BAE Systems’ digital electronic warfare system (DEWS), designed to integrate with the Raytheon APG-63v3 AESA radar.
  • Possibility of integrating stealthy skin coatings and radar blockers for engine inlets, which will further reduce the front-aspect radar cross-section.

Although the aircraft is intended for export markets such as Japan, Korea, Israel and Saudi Arabia, my prediction is that this development will seal the end of Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor production.

I have no doubt Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics John Young will hint strongly that the Air Force should be looking at cheaper remanufactures of Gen 4 fighters in order to fulfill the Gen 5 warfighting needs of the next 30-40 years.  Because, as the world since 1989 has shown us, no near-peer competitor—despite the nomenclature—will ever develop the capabilities and intentions to strike the national interests of the United States.  The only wars we will ever fight will be at the times and places of our choosing, against asymmetric threats.  Thinking otherwise is, in SecDef Gates’ formulation, “next-war-itis“.

Let’s hope that decidedly rose-tinted view of 21st century combat is correct.

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2 Responses
  1. Well, this might assure that there will _be_ a next war…
    Anyway, the ads for the F-22 are still up in the Pentagon City metro station walkway…

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    Yep, they’re all over the Air Force Association’s magazine, too. Every month.
    Who knows whether it will be effective. My bet is that it will get axed by Gates, and in 15-20 years we’ll be fighting a war with slightly uprated versions of the stuff we’ve got today. And taking way too many casualties.