Boeing defence prospects

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.

Advanced Super Hornet

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…

3 Responses to Boeing defence prospects

  1. CharleyA 8 June, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Don’t forget the P-8 – it’s a large program for the Navy. But Boeing’s tacair future lies with the F/A-XX. Super Hornets will be retiring in the 2030′s, and their will be a need for a manned replacement – a heavy fighter, not a derivative of F-35.

  2. rufus3698 8 June, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    Boeing also has the P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine patrol aircraft just beginning production.
    That’s being done in Washington, so their old MacDac fighter subsidiary will likely be for the chop.

    Quite a bit depends on the F-35. If the design doesn’t work things could get sticky if Russian and China decide to get frisky.

  3. Cocidius 21 June, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Boeing recently has started floating the idea of an enhanced F/A-18G Growler using the new conformal tanks, IRST, enhanced cockpit and upgraded engines. That should be appealing to the USN and the RAAF and hopefully keep the Super Hornet production line open a bit longer.

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