The general building the F-35 called Boeing on the carpet here at the Paris Air Show, saying they were misleading customers as they marketed the F-15 "Silent Eagle."
My colleague Andrea Shalal-Esa of Reuters interviewed Brig. Gen. David Heinz, program executive officer for the F-35. "So for Boeing to make statements about a 'dumbed down' variant ... is absolutely incorrect and it is speculative and I believe, a very disappointing marketing ploy to drum up business," she quoted Heinz as saying.
Jim Albaugh, the head of Boeing's IDS, said earlier this week that the F-15 version would offer customers as much stealth as the government allows for export in tersm of its front radar cross section.
"We are not trying to say that this is an airplane that has full-aspect stealth capability," Albaugh said. "It doesn't. But from the front, "it has all the stealth that has been approved for export by the U.S. government."
One of the things that may have left Gen. Heinz fuming is his belief that Boeing has been telling international customers for the F-35 that the US is selling a less stealthy version of the plane than they are buying.
He said foreign countries who bought the F-35 would be subject to a U.S. disclosure process and U.S. export controls, but the aircraft being sold today were the same airplanes that were also being built for the U.S. military services.
Boeing's military aircraft president Chris Chadwick said the F-15 was being marketed only to existing F-15 customers, and was not in direct competition with the F-35.
"If there are other customers who would like to talk to us about the enhanced version of the F-15 (the Silent Eagle) we'd be happy to discuss," he said, responding to Heinz's remarks.
Boeing's F-15 and F-18 fighter jets are competing against Lockheed's F-16 for massive fighter jet orders around the world. Analysts say Boeing, the top U.S. exporter and the Pentagon's No. 2 supplier in prime contracts, risks getting edged out of the fighter market altogether as the U.S. government focuses more and more on the F-35.
Keen to keep its fighter production lines open, Boeing in March unveiled an F-15 version that offers some radar-evading capability as an alternative for countries that can't afford the F-35 fighter being developed by Lockheed for the United States and eight other countries.
Boeing has said it is speaking to companies in the United States and abroad about co-funding development of a new F-15 version aimed at Asian and Middle East markets that would incorporate coatings to help avoid detection by radar.
Heinz first criticized how Boeing was marketing its F-15 Silent Eagle at a news conference in Washington on June 2, and also took a swipe at its radar-evading capabilities.