The F-15 Eagle is an air superiority fighter that remains relevant today. However, one variant, the F-15SE Silent Eagle, failed to get off the ground. Let’s find out what made it different and why the Air Force didn’t adopt it.

The F-15SE Silent Eagle: An Attempt at Stealth

Introduced in 2009, the F-15SE Silent Eagle sought to incorporate stealth technology into the already successful F-15. Aiming to be a bridge between fourth and fifth-generation fighters, the Silent Eagle hoped to be the solution to evading detection in modern combat environments.

Boeing had the export market in mind and diverted business away from Lockheed Martin, which dominated stealth aircraft sales with the F-35 Lightning II.

Despite similarities to the F-15E Strike Eagle, the Silent Eagle had notable differences, such as weapon bays and shaped fuel tanks, to limit the radar cross-section of the airframe.

F-15 Silent Eagle: The enigmatic fighter rejected by the USAF

Weapon Capabilities and Design Improvements

The Silent Eagle could carry a large number of weapons, including AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, JDAM bombs, and small-diameter bombs. It could even carry the Raytheon AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile, making it a viable option for suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) operations.

The Silent Eagle’s vertical stabilizers were also modified to reduce its radar cross-section and improve lift, increasing its range by 75-100 miles.

In addition, the reactor was coated with radar-absorbing materials (RAM) to minimize radar return and improve stealth.

F-15 Silent Eagle: The enigmatic fighter rejected by the USAF

The F-35 trumps the Silent Eagle.

Despite its innovations, the Silent Eagle failed to win over international buyers, who preferred the F-35. Countries like South Korea, Israel, Canada, Japan, and Saudi Arabia opted for the true fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-35.

The Silent Eagle faded into obscurity, becoming a footnote in the history of the F-15 fighter.

The Silent Eagle Legacy: The F-15EX

Although the Silent Eagle story has come to an end, the F-15 continues to evolve. A new version, the F-15EX, is in development and incorporates many of the Silent Eagle’s improvements.

Indeed, in July 2020, the Air Force signed a $1.2 billion contract with Boeing to produce the F-15EX, suggesting that the F-15EX could have a promising future where the Silent Eagle did not succeed.

With the lessons learned from the Silent Eagle, the F-15EX could uphold the F-15 legacy and remain a valuable tool for the Air Force for decades to come.