Military deliveries in 2018 by Boeing Defense, Space & Security fell 43.5% to 96 aircraft compared to the year prior.
The company disclosed in a delivery report that the largest contributing factor to the decline was fewer deliveries of new and remanufactured AH-64 Apaches. The AH-64 Apache had a critical safety issue with its strap pack mega-nut last year, a problem which appeared to contribute to the decline.
In February 2018, the US Army discovered that the AH-64's strap pack mega-nut, which connects its rotorhead to the airframe and keeps the blades from spinning off during flight, might corrode to the point where they crack under stress after being subject to severe weather and salt in coastal areas. After the discovery the service refused delivery of the helicopters for several months until Boeing could show it fixed the problem.
Steve Wade, vice president for Boeing’s attack helicopter programs, said at the Association of the US Army conference in Washington, DC in October that the company only delivered six Apaches in the first quarter of 2018, six in the second and none in the third quarter. At the time, he estimated the manufacturer would deliver 22 of the type in the fourth quarter – 34 in total before the end of the year, which was nearly 30% less than planned.
“It’s been a challenging year for Boeing in the Apache programme,” Wade said in October. “I think today we can stand in front of you and say we are in a really good place. The customer is regaining confidence.”
Yet, the company ultimately delivered only 23 remanufactured AH-64 Apaches last year. It had hoped to make up lost ground in 2019, but with deliveries even lower than anticipated it is not clear when the firm will get the programme back on schedule.
Boeing declined to comment on the shrunken number of military deliveries in 2018, citing a quiet period before its earnings call at the end of the month and the need to consult its AH-64 Apache customer, the US Army.
New AH-64 Apache
Remanufactured AH-64 Apache
New CH-47 Chinook
Renewed CH-47 Chinook
F/A-18 Super Hornet
Of Boeing’s seven military aircraft programmes active in 2017, six experienced declining delivery numbers in 2018, including the new AH-64 Apache models, remanufactured AH-64 models, the renewed CH-47 Chinook models, F-15 models, F/A-18 models and P-8 models. Only the new CH-47 Chinook models saw an increase in deliveries.
The company also disclosed at the end of December that its much delayed KC-46 air tanker programme would miss its end of 2018 first delivery date.
A slower pace of delivery comes as the company’s backlog grew from $49.6 billion at the end of 2017 to $58 billion at the end of the third quarter. The company also recently won large contracts to supply the US Air Force with its T-X jet trainer and MH-139 helicopter, as well as with the US Navy to manufacture its MQ-25A Stingray carrier-based unmanned refueling aircraft.