Dubai Air Show

Scrappy F-15 still turns heads

 - November 15, 2009, 12:59 AM

The U.S. Air Force F-15 display here is so hot you can see the paint peeling off the aircraft! In fact, although this F-15E Strike Eagle needs sprucing up a tad, its airshow act could hardly be smarter. The display put on by captains Phil “Ritz” Smith (pilot) accompanied by John “Gizmo” Cox in the back seat, is the best that AIN has seen of an F-15. Watch in particular for the scorching inverted departure, the curving knife-edge pass, and the corkscrewing vertical ascent and descent toward the end of the display. Smith and Cox are from the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour-Johnson AFB on the U.S. east coast. However, their aircraft is from the 48th FW at RAF Lakenheath in the UK, which has a squadron currently deployed to this region.

Boeing continues to tread on eggshells in the Pentagon, in marketing new F-15s internationally. The company has attracted serious flak from the F-35 program office for suggesting that its latest proposal of a “Silent Eagle” can match the Joint Strike Fighter’s very small radar cross section (RCS), at least in frontal aspect. Boeing has responded by noting that the proposal is aimed only at existing F-15 customers who might want to supplement their fleets.

In this region that could include Saudi Arabia. But a Boeing spokesman suggested to AIN that Korea is the main target for the F-15SE. Japan seems another likely prospect.

As well as RCS improvements through coatings and a redesigned V-tail, the F-15SE offers some avionics already found on current production Strike Eagles for Korea and Singapore, such as an AESA radar, plus a new digital electronic warfare system from BAE Systems and stealthy weapons carriage within the conformal fuel tanks. Boeing has committed its own dollars to development and flight-test of the latter, due next year. But the company is seeking a partner to help develop the whole Silent Eagle package–a task that could be complicated by stringent U.S. technology export rules, especially regarding stealth and electronic warfare.