The new issue of Flight International carries a couple of defence articles by our Asia editor Greg Waldron following the recent Shangri-La Dialogue event in Singapore: both concerning Boeing.
Given the way that any manufacturer will talk up its prospects, it’s no surprise that Boeing Defense, Space & Security chief executive Chris Chadwick is on the one hand optimistic about the company’s two-product fighter stable, and is also “bullish” about signing up buyers for its last 12 C-17 strategic transports.
In reality, these are concerning times for the Boeing company’s military business. Production of the C-17 will end in the middle of 2015, and unless Congress agrees to add more EA-18G Growlers for the US Navy (or an unexpected export order pops up) its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet line will also shut down in late 2016. Sales of the F-15 – thanks to Saudi Arabia – are good until 2018, and the current multi-year procurement deal for the CH-47 Chinook will end late the following year.
So, are more fighter sales likely? Bar Australia, the Super Hornet has failed to entice international buyers: partly because many operators of “classic” Hornets will be able to fly them in upgraded guise for many years to come; and also partly because multiple others are so determined to field the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But if more delays or cost rises occur with the latter, then a continued alternative option from Boeing – especially with some of the enhanced capabilities now on offer – could keep the St Louis line hot for a while longer.
What Boeing really needs is a couple of new programmes. It already has one in the KC-46A tanker, the first true example of which should be flown early next year, but its big hope must lie in the US Air Force’s T-X trainer contest. Little is known about the latter design, but it’s interesting to note that the company has teamed with Saab: which saw off the Super Hornet with its Gripen in Brazil’s fighter contest.
Combining their talents could deliver a formidable candidate for the Northrop T-38 replacement opportunity, plus a valuable and potentially long-term stream of export sales for the type. If only we knew what it looked like…