Boeing is optimistic about the health of its tactical fighter business, and believes its diverse portfolio of aircraft types and capabilities will serve it in good stead in the prevailing lean defence environment.
“Worldwide there is a rebalancing of social and defence needs, and this has brought pressure to bear on almost all the governments we deal with,” says Chris Chadwick, president and chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
“We’ve put a full court press on how we break from the pack of other defence companies.”
Chadwick made the remarks on the sidelines of the recent Shangri-La Dialogues event in Singapore, where he led a Boeing delegation to network with Asia Pacific defence leaders. He says it is key for defence contractors to break the cycle of escalating costs, while also delivering capabilities that customers require for the 21st century.
Chadwick expressed optimism on both of the company’s tactical fighter lines, the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15E. He pointed out that the navy has an unfunded requirement for 22 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. If the order is secured, the deal would allow Boeing to extend the Saint Louis Super Hornet line beyond the third quarter of 2016, when it is due to shut down.
“We feel pretty strongly that they will procure additional Super Hornets and this will allow us to extend the production line.”
He also foresees international opportunities for the twin-engined type, noting that Canada and Denmark appear to be reconsidering their commitment to the Lockheed Martin F-35 programme.
He adds that certain elements of the company’s Super Hornet ‘International Roadmap’ could be offered depending on customer requirements. First revealed in 2010, the ‘International Roadmap’ would include updates such as increasing the power of the Super Hornet’s General Electric F414 engines, adding conformal fuel tanks, updating the cockpit with a full touch screen display, and integrating an infrared search and track (IRST) sensor.
A similar range of updates proposed in the company’s F-15 Silent Eagle – which lost to the F-35 in South Korea’s F-X III requirement - could also be offered to future F-15 buyers.
“The F-15 production line is rock-solid to 2018 because of the Saudi procurement a few years ago,” says Chadwick.
“There are still a number of Middle Eastern countries that are looking at fighter capability. People find that everyone doesn’t need an all aspect stealth capable fighter. In today’s world a fighter’s technology, sensors, and situational awareness all play together, and our stable of fighters provide a top-line capability that is more than adequate for the requirements of many different customers.”
Chadwick also expressed confidence in the company’s partnership with Sweden’s Saab for the future US T-X trainer competition, which will replace the Northrop T-38.
“Saab brings a unique design and development capability. It’s a company in a small country that’s had to survive quite some time and been very successful. They know how to design, develop, and build a capability at a lower cost in a more condensed fashion. Then you’ve got Boeing, the world’s number two defence company. The collision of those two cultures really drives innovation into our design.”