A report from Flightglobal.com states that Israel is requesting a batch of F-15s as part of a compensation program for the U.S. making a deal with Iran over its nuclear program. According to the report, not just any F-15 was requested, but the F-15SE Silent Eagle.
The F-15SE was Boeing’s attempt to compete internationally with the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, especially for major purchasing competitions like those recently held in Korea and Japan, both of which are F-15 users. These users ended up selecting the F-35, and Israel also opted for the F-35 even though they are among the most prevalent F-15 operators in the world.
The F-15SE concept included conforming internal weapons bays, V-shaped tails, radar baffles over its engine-fan faces, radar absorbent coatings, along with other enhancements used to lower the jet’s radar signature, especially from the forward hemisphere. It also would feature many of the options found on the latest F-15 Strike Eagle derivatives today, including fly-by-wire controls, a wide-screen cockpit, updated electronic warfare and radar warning systems, an infrared search and track system (IRST) and the most powerful fighter-based AESA radar in the world.
The idea was that an F-15SE could be outfitted in a stealthy configuration with conforming weapons bays for “first days of war” operations. Once the enemy’s air defense have been degraded, the jet can be quickly reconfigured to the hard-hitting enhanced Strike Eagle configuration with many external stores configurations. This flexibility is an enticing capability mix for what is already a highly proven and low-risk platform.
If this report is correct, and Israel wants more Eagles to join their 25 F-15Is and mix of earlier F-15A/B/C/Ds, many of which have been converted into multi-role fighters are quite old, it could be great news for Boeing’s St. Louis plant.
Currently, there are no F-15 orders after the Saudi Arabian F-15SA order is fulfilled in 2019, and future Super Hornet orders also remain an unsure thing at this point. With the recent loss of the Long Range Strike Bomber contract to Northrop, and the fact that T-X competition for a new Air Force jet trainer remains highly competitive, Boeing is facing slim pickings when it comes to its tactical military aircraft production outfit. Boeing has recently pitched a new upgrade path for existing Eagles, but producing upgrade kits is not the same as keeping an aircraft in production.
Not only does extending the production time of a fighter open up new possibilities for more sales, but if the Silent Eagle really is the aircraft Israel wants, and gets, its capabilities can be showcased in a real-world environment. Seeing the F-15SE in action could lead to other air-arms’ interest in the type. This is especially true if Israel’s order pays for the sub-type’s development costs.
Also on Israel’s wish list via a multi-year U.S. foreign aid program are V-22 Ospreys, KC-46 tankers, additional F-35s and bunker buster bombs that are currently not available for export. Offering more F-35s would fit the Obama’s Administration dedication to the type as a synergistic foreign policy tool, but it would also mean giving Israel an even greater military edge in the region.
Additionally, an F-15 can be tailored to support Israel’s current air combat fleet, whereas the F-35 can be tailored to a far smaller degree. With this in mind, new F-15s may be more necessary for the IAF to work as force multipliers for its larger F-16 fleet than just procuring more F-35s.
Even if this report is wrong, and Israel is actually looking for more Eagles based on the newest non-stealthy Strike Eagle derivative option, and they get them, it would mean the F-15 production line lives to fight on into the 2020s. Considering that would mean surviving through yet another Presidential election cycle, it could be a very good thing for Boeing.
Contact the author Tyler@Jalopnik.com