Boeing: Saudi F-15 Order Aids Korea F-X III Proposal

 - August 28, 2013, 9:00 AM
Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle highlighting a conformal weapons bay on left and conformal fuel tank on right. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle fighter offering to South Korea benefits from development work on the F-15SA ordered by Saudi Arabia and an existing base of F-15Ks flown by the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), the company said this week.

During a briefing Tuesday in St. Louis, Steve Winkler, Boeing’s F-15 business development director, said the company has received no official word that the F-15SE has won Korea’s F-X III competition for 60 new fighters, valued at $7.2 billion. Boeing expects that confirmation of the F-X III “source selection” will come by mid-September, when an executive committee of Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) chaired by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin meets to decide among contending aircraft. The Yonhap news agency has reported that the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35A have been eliminated from consideration, leaving the F-15SE.

According to Winkler, companies submitted final bids for the program on August 16. He said Boeing’s offer benefits from common component development done for the Saudi Arabian F-15SA program and the support infrastructure built around Korea’s 60 F-15K Slam Eagles, which the ROKAF selected in 2002.

Components shared by the Saudi F-15SA and the F-15SE include the Raytheon APG-63 active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire control radar, digital electronic warfare suite (DEWS) and fly-by-wire flight controls. Among differences, the F-15SE offered to South Korea would have a conformal weapons bay that could be replaced with conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) based on the mission. Winkler said the conformal weapons bay is built by Korea Aerospace Industries; the CFTs are built by Israel Aerospace Industries. The F-15SE also would be Boeing’s first fighter equipped with an advanced cockpit system featuring an 11-by-19-inch touchscreen display developed with Elbit Systems.

“That’s the beauty of having the Saudi program,” Winkler said. Advancing common components “reduces all that risk…All we needed to do was bring about the Korea-unique elements—the conformal weapons bay, the reduced RCS [radar cross section], the advanced crew station, with the 11-by-19 display in both the front and the back cockpits.”

Winning the first stage of the F-X competition has also helped. “We are able to leverage the 60 aircraft that are there,” Winkler said. The “support equipment, infrastructure, all of those elements that are already in place on the peninsula can be used because we are 85 percent common with the F-15Ks that are there. We are able to put a compelling package together that is totally compliant with the operational requirements and provides low acquisition cost and low lifecycle cost.”

The F-15SE program would begin flight testing three years of a contract award, possibly by 2016, with first deliveries to the ROKAF in 2017.