The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] today in St. Louis unveiled the F-15 Silent Eagle (F-15SE), a new F-15 configuration designed to meet the future needs of international customers."The F-15 Silent Eagle is designed to meet our international customers' anticipated need for cost-effective stealth technologies, as well as for large and diverse weapons payloads," said Mark Bass, F-15 Program vice president for Boeing. "The innovative Silent Eagle is a balanced, affordable approach designed to meet future survivability needs."Improvements in stealth include coatings and treatments on the aircraft. With the added advantage of redesigned conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that allow for internal weapons carriage, the Silent Eagle becomes a very attractive fighter for Boeing's international customers.Depending on the specific mission, the customer can use the CFTs that are designed for internal carriage or change back to the traditional CFTs for optimum fuel capacity and external weapons carriage. The Silent Eagle will be able to internally carry air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 and AIM-120 and air-to-ground weapons such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Small Diameter Bomb (SDB). The standard weapons load used on current versions of the F-15 is available with the traditional CFTs installed.Boeing timed this perfectly. One month before Secretary Gates puts the kibosh on Lockheed's F-22 program, Boeing swoops in with a highly versatile, 5.5 generation fighter that's both deadly and cost effective (the Stealth Eagle was announced in mid-March).Boeing seems to be gearing this program towards overseas clients, with the USAF looking ahead to the inevitable massive JSF purchase. Fair enough. But would it hurt to beef up our inventory with a couple F-15SE squadrons? Halting F-22 production has put an enormous gap in the Air Force's fleet, so the introduction of a cheap, flexible, capable, and stealthy fighter practically has a bow on it. The old USAF, pre-decapitation, would sniff at any technology that's anything less than cutting edge and exciting. Today's boys in blue are more open to innovation.If nothing else, it's worth a look.Aside: Each time I read "F-15SE" I want to say "F-15 Strike Eagle" instead of Stealth Eagle. Annoying.
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