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Boeing Looks to First Silent Eagle Flight

This article first appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology.

With radar-cross-section (RCS) trials for Boeing's Silent Eagle semi-stealthy F-15 prototype complete, company officials are now focusing on South Korea as a possible first customer.

The RCS testing took place during a two-week period last August and September, although Boeing has only just acknowledged it because of proprietary issues, says Mark Bass, vice president of F-15 programs.

The company is eyeing South Korea's forthcoming F-X3 competition for 60 fighters as the first sales opportunity for the Silent Eagle. The South Korean parliament's recent hesitancy about investing in all-stealth aircraft "validates our approach" with the aircraft, says Bass. The company is considering potential international co-development partners for a Silent Eagle conformal fuel tank, although no announcements have been made.

Boeing is developing the variant for international customers that already operate F-15s and are seeking additional aircraft. The system is a possible alternative for nations interested in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Silent Eagle is not as stealthy as the JSF, but it could provide flexibility for countries trying to stretch their defense dollars.

In the early days of an air campaign, the Silent Eagle can be outfitted with weapon bays suitable for carrying air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons that would be tucked inside conformal fuel tanks, thus reducing the aircraft's front-quadrant RCS. The aircraft could then be reconfigured in hours to handle the F-15's characteristic heavy load of weapons once early threats are removed and sustainment operations begin.

The RCS tests on F-15E1, an Air Force test asset leased to Boeing, took place at the company's anechoic chamber in St. Louis. Various coatings were evaluated and a final candidate has been selected and applied to the appropriate portions of the airframe. Testing produced the desired results, he said. Bass declined to provide details on the coating or the precise RCS numbers.

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-- Christian

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