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The Silent Eagle Soars: The Story of the F-15 Variant That Could Have Changed Modern Air Warfare

The F-15 Eagle is a fighter aircraft that is still relevant today. However, its variant, the F-15SE Silent Eagle, was unsuccessful. Let’s discover what set it apart and why it was not adopted by the Air Force.

The F-15SE Silent Eagle was an attempt to incorporate stealth technology into the F-15, which was already a successful aircraft. Its aim was to be a solution for evading detection in modern combat environments and a bridge between fourth and fifth-generation fighters. Boeing intended to sell the Silent Eagle to foreign markets, taking business away from Lockheed Martin, which dominated the market with the F-35 Lightning II.

Despite being similar to the F-15E Strike Eagle, the Silent Eagle had differences such as weapon bays and shaped fuel tanks that decreased its radar cross-section. It could carry a variety of weapons, including AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, JDAM bombs, and small-diameter bombs. The Raytheon AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile could also be carried, making it an option for suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) operations.

The Silent Eagle’s vertical stabilizers were modified to reduce its radar cross-section and improve lift, which increased its range by 75-100 miles. The reactor was also coated with radar-absorbing materials (RAM) to minimize radar return and improve stealth. Despite its innovations, the Silent Eagle failed to win over international buyers who preferred the F-35. South Korea, Israel, Canada, Japan, and Saudi Arabia chose the true fifth-generation stealth fighter over the Silent Eagle.

The F-15EX, a new version of the F-15, incorporates many of the Silent Eagle’s improvements and is currently in development. In July 2020, the Air Force signed a $1.2 billion contract with Boeing to produce the F-15EX, indicating a promising future for the F-15EX where the Silent Eagle did not succeed. With the lessons learned from the Silent Eagle, the F-15EX could continue the F-15 legacy and be a valuable tool for the Air Force for many years to come.

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