Posted : 2012-02-14 18:51
Updated : 2012-02-14 18:51

Boeing backtracks on stealthy jet offer

F-15K fighter jet

By Lee Tae-hoon

Boeing is mulling changing its plan to propose the F-15 Silent Eagle (F-15SE), a semi-stealth version of the F-15 Strike Eagle, to Korea as pricing emerges as a key factor in determining the winner of the country’s largest arms procurement deal ever.

“Whether you want to add additional elements or remove elements, we will have that flexibility on our proposal to the customer,” Howard Berry, Boeing’s campaign manager for Seoul’s latest jet acquisition project, said in a recent interview.

“We recognize how critical affordability will be. It will be very difficult to win this competition if you are not putting the most affordable solution on the table.”

Boeing is competing with its U.S. rival Lockheed Martin and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) for the FX-III project, under which Korea plans to buy 60 high-end fighters with a budget of 8.29 trillion won ($7.3 billion).

Some experts point out that the cost of Boeing’s F-15SE will likely surpass that of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and EADS’s Typhoon as Korea is the only country to shoulder the financial burden on its development.

The change of heart comes as Korea has officially backed away from its original plan to purchase 60 fifth-generation stealth fighters with an internal weapons bay and a very low radar cross section.

Seoul eliminated requirements for a conformal weapons bay (CWB), which allows aircraft to carry weapons internally for stealth missions, and a specific radar cross section (RCS) value previously set by the Air Force. RCS is a measure of how stealthy an object is.

Previously, Boeing had no option, but to offer the F-15SE to enter the FX-III race, but now it has an option to offer its existing F-15 model with some improvements, such as an advanced cockpit and dual helmet-mounted displays.

Jeff Kohler, Boeing Military Aircraft vice-president for international business development, said in Singapore Monday that his company is weighing the option of proposing the F-15SA, a variant for a recent Saudi Arabian order, to Korea, according to Aviation Week.

The F-15SA, however, does not incorporate core technologies envisioned for the F-15SE, which includes a CWB, special stealth coatings and twin canted tails, which help reduce the aircraft’s radar signature and increase aerodynamic efficiency.

Nevertheless, the two senior Boeing officials stressed that the F-15SE remains an option for Korea.

“We have never wavered from our intention to offer the F-15 Silent Eagle,” Berry said.

“There have been limited developments, but I’m pleased to tell you that we are moving forward with development activities (for the F-15SE).”

Berry, however, could not give exact details about the development in figures.

“We don’t expect a physical fly off during (the testing and evaluations later this year),” he said.

“We expect the Defense Acquisition Program Administration is so efficient in doing very thorough analytical evaluations and that their analysts will look at simulation and data.”

He claimed that in the end the F-15SE can be what the customer wants it to be and the name right now is a convenient way of labeling this compilation of elements improving the aircraft stealth features.

“If you take elements away other than these signature reduction things, such as coatings, I personally would be comfortable calling it Silent Eagle,” he said.

He argued that the F-15SE is a compilation of elements, enhancements on a proven airframe that is the F-15, which is based upon a design that dates back to 1968.

He said if Korea no longer shows interests in stealth features and internal carriage, his company is willing to give up offering them.

Seoul will receive proposals from the three bidders by June 18 and carry out testing and evaluations until September before selecting the winner in October.
관련 한글 기사

보잉, FX 3차 사업 저가전략으로 유턴

내년 10월쯤 기종이 선정될 예정인 공군 차세대 전투기(FX) 3차 사업에 뛰어든 보잉이 저가전략으로 선회하려는 가능성이 높아지고 있다.

'RCS'(레이더 반사면적) 기준 수치와 '내부무장창' 등 스텔스 기능을 한국군의 필수요구조건에서 삭제됨으로써 당초 한국에 제시한 F-15 스텔스 버전인 F-15SE (사일런트 이글)를 고수할 필요성이 사라졌기 때문이다.

보잉의 FX 3차사업 캠페인 메니저인 하워드 베리씨는 “우리는 한국이 요구에 따라 성능을 추가할지 넣을지 뺄지 여부를 융통성을 발휘하여 제안 할 예정이라”며 개발을 진행중인 F-15SE를 제안할지 기존 F-15 전투기로 입찰할지 여부는 전적으로 한국이 무엇을 원하는지에 달려있다고 밝혔다.

그는 보잉이 FX 3차사업의 경우 “가장 낮은 가격을 제시하지 않고서는 경쟁에서 이기기란 아주 힘들 것”이라며 가격 경쟁력이 이번 사업 수주에 있어 결정적 요소로 작용할 것이라 전망했다.

베리씨는 레이다 반사 면적을 줄이는데 도움이 되는 수직꼬리 날개를 15도 외각 기울이기, 내부무장창 등은 한국이 원하지 않으면 제공하지 않을 수 있으나 그렇다고 보잉이 F-15SE 개발을 포기한다는 것은 아니라 말했다.

또한 F-15SE란 여러 스텔스 기능을 추가한 F-15 전투기를 통상 지칭하는 이름이기에 애초 계획에서 일부 스텔스 코팅 등 레이다 반사면적을 줄일 수 있는 요소만 유지한다면 F-15SE라 불러도 무관하다고 본다고 말했다.

한편, 보잉의 군사영업개발부의 부사장인 제프 콜러씨는 13일 싱가포르 에어쇼에서 보잉이 F-15SE를 한국판매 여부는 하나의 선택사항이라며 사우디에 판매하기로 한 F-15SA를 F-15SE대신 한국에 제안하는 것도 좋은 대안이 될 수 있다고 밝혔다.

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