Boeing flops, then flips, on JCA


The Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program continues to live up to its reputation as the “just confusing aircraft” program.

The confusion now focuses on Boeing’s always-mercurial role in the L-3 Communications/Alenia Aeronautica partnership that’s supplying the C-27J to the US Army.

Here’s what a Boeing spokesman told Roxana Tiron at The Hill newspaper last Thursday:

“There is a lot of potential in the Joint Cargo Aircraft program, butthe business case for Boeing was such that the parties jointly decidedto move on without Boeing,” said Boeing spokesman John Williamson.

On Monday, I followed up with Alenia, and got very much the same response:

“After negotiating with no real success, wejointly made the decision that Alenia could not afford to delay ourinvestment anymore in Jacksonville,” Alenia said.

Later in the afternoon, however, Boeing started to back-pedal. A spokesman told my colleague Andrew Doyle yesterday that the parties were still trying to close a business case. Andrew also talked to Chris Chadwick, president of Boeing’s precision engagement and mobility systems business. Here’s what Chris told him:

“We’re trying to close the business case.”

I’ve heard of spin, but this is ridiculous.

Continue reading to see the full article we posted on last night.

JCA industry team faces shake-up

Akey member of the industry team that won the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA)contract a year ago appears to have dropped out, a move that wouldforce a major shake-up of the original production system.

Ateam that included L-3 Communications, Alenia Aeronautica and Boeingwas selected to deliver the Alenia C-27J for the US Army and US AirForce.

L-3is the prime contractor and Alenia is the platform supplier. Boeing hadagreed to open and operate a second final assembly in Jacksonville, Florida, but the precise terms were never finalized.

Negotiations between Boeing and Alenia over the former’s role have now ended without resolution.

“Afternegotiating with no real success, we jointly made the decision thatAlenia could not afford to delay our investment anymore in Jacksonville,” Alenia said.

However, Boeing has made conflicting comments. Last week, a Boeing spokesman told The Hill newspaper in Washington DC that the company had ceased negotiations with Alenia.

ButChris Chadwick, Boeing’s president of precision engagement and mobilitysystems, told reporters on Monday that negotiations remain ongoing.

Chadwick says “we’re trying to close the business case” with Alenia regarding JCA.

BothAlenia and L-3 officials emphasized that Boeing’s departure will notaffect the delivery schedule. The JCA contract calls for the firstC-27J delivery to the army before October.

“We’reperfectly confident this is not going to have anything to do withschedule or delivery,” L-3 says. L-3 also described Boeing’sparticipation as an “exploration of a business relationship” thatinvolved Alenia and Boeing only; L-3 was not involved in thenegotiations.

Boeing’sparticipation in the JCA programme dates back to 2006 during a heatedcompetition between the C-27J and the C-295, with the latter offered byRaytheon/EADS North America. Boeing joined the L-3/Alenia partnershipshortly before the USAF agreed to join the army’s programme.

Atthe time, L-3 declared that its new partner “brings the ability toestablish a streamlined, process-based production facility in the U.S. that will ensure on-time delivery to the JCA customers.”

Theterms of the agreement remained in flux even after contract award,which occurred shortly before the Paris Air Show last year.

Duringthe air show, Boeing disputed statements made by L-3 executives, whohad told reporters that Boeing’s role in final assembly would not beginuntil after the 20th aircraft was delivered.

Infact, Alenia and Boeing were negotiating to open the second finalassembly line in 2010, when the team is scheduled to deliver the 10ththrough the 14th aircraft to the army.

Alenianow plans to take over Boeing’s disputed role in the programme, openingand operating the second final assembly line for the C-27J by itself.

“We’ve been building this airplane for almost a decade,” Alenia said. “We know how to build the airplane.”

Theshift would fit into Alenia parent Finmeccanica’s strategic plans toexpand manufacturing and sales in the North American market.Finmeccanica is seeking to close a deal to buy USdefence electronics firm DRS Technologies. AgustaWestland, anotherFinmeccanica subsidiary, has successfully opened new final assemblylines for the A119 and A109 helicopters in Philadelphia.

Butthe departure of Boeing means Alenia and L-3 also lose a manufacturingand sales champion for the C-27J. The army has committed to buy 54aircraft and the USAF has signed on to purchase 24. The USAF, however,has not signed a contract under the JCA programme, and the LockheedMartin C-130J remains a potential option if mobility requirements areadapted.


Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

, , ,

3 Responses to Boeing flops, then flips, on JCA

  1. Royce 10 June, 2008 at 9:17 pm #

    I read this as Boeing recognizing that despite all rosy projections at the Pentagon, the Army will probably stop buying after 54 aircraft and the AF probably won’t ever get around to ordering any. It doesn’t sound like opening a U.S. facility makes much sense, but the politics of buying them out of Italy make everyone nervous.

  2. John S. 11 June, 2008 at 5:38 pm #

    Opening up a US final assembly line for a foreign designed airframe is exactly what Boeing is arguing against in the KC-X protest.

    I think Boeing realized it couldn’t have it both ways, and backed out of the deal to face.

  3. Jacksonville cabinet 20 July, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    Wonderful to read!

Leave a Reply