Military cash and the WTO

To learn that GeneralElectric is using technologies developed with US military money for its half ofthe CFM International Leap turbofan is no great surprise. Nor is it a surprise,really, to find that GE reckons that the Air Force cash behind projects likeADVENT (advanced versatile engine technology) will drive commercial enginedevelopment beyond Leap.

Indeed, it’s worthremembering that Leap’s predecessor, the hugely-successful CFM-56, was designedusing a high-pressure turbine based on the GE F101 engine developed for theNorth American B-1A bomber and now powering the Boeing B-1B Lancer (Snecma,GE’s partner in CFM, provided the low-pressure section).

The reason it’s all nosurprise is that this is how aerospace has been operating for a century.

So, what remains eternallysurprising is how Boeing can so doggedly pursue itsbald-men-fighting-over-a-comb subsidies dispute against Airbus in the WorldTrade Organisation. While Airbus’s product development people wallow inEuropean cash largesse, Boeing insists (technically, the US governmentinsists), it has to make do with what little it can scrape together from itshard-pressed investors and mean-spirited “commercial” lenders.

Apparently, unlike theircounterparts at GE, Boeing’s civil aircraft people learn nothing much from allthat work the defence side of the company does under a waterfall of governmentmoney.

Just to cite one example,Boeing, along with Northrop and Vought, developed the exotic composite B-2stealth bomber. Word on the street is some 787 customers believe that, alongwith nifty interior lighting and big windows, they are getting a bit of stealthbomber technology. Boeing would never imply that, of course, but one can kindof see how the idea gets stuck in people’s heads.

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