Not Keeping Silent

Boeing’s announcement March 17 that it is exploring the concept of a “stealthy” F-15 Silent Eagle model with a level of stealthiness has raised some skeptical eyebrows in the industry. Asked for comment, a Lockheed Martin spokesman said, “The experience of the aerospace community to date is that very low-observable stealth, as possessed by the F-22 and F-35”—both of which Lockheed has the lead in producing—“can be achieved only when it is incorporated into an aircraft’s design from the outset.” Strap-on measures like “treatments and shapes generally achieve a relatively minor radar signature reduction” when tried with fourth-generation fighters (such as the F-15 and F-16), continued the Lockheed official. Boeing did not disclose how it would reduce the radar signature of the engine fan blades on the Silent Eagle; they are a huge radar reflector. Brad Jones, the company’s F-15 Future Fighters program manager, said there are ancillary measures such as fan blade blockers and radar-absorbent treatments of the engine intakes. But, he would not discuss the main solution, saying only, “stealth technology has come a long way” over the last 20 years.