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Boeing Defense catching up with helicopter and tanker deliveries

After struggling with manufacturing and parts design problems last year, issues which delayed dozens of deliveries, Boeing Defense, Space & Security matched its 2018 delivery totals in the first six months of the year, with 96 military aircraft received by customers.

Many of the company’s deliveries in the first two quarters of 2019 were new and remanufactured examples of the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The company delivered 45 Apaches in the first six months, compared to just 23 of the aircraft of all last year. The difference was mainly because the US Army suspended acceptance of all AH-64E aircraft in 2018 due to safety risks and inspection expenses related to the helicopter’s strap pack retention nut.

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Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter

US Army

In fact, Boeing Defense’s second quarter military aircraft deliveries fell 40%, compared to the first quarter. The company appears to have played catch-up on AH-64s in the first quarter that were supposed to be delivered last year and then settled down into a slower pace in the second quarter. The company is also on pace to deliver slightly more than the 30 remanufactured and new CH-47 Chinooks it handed over to customers in 2018, with 16 delivered thus far.

For its part, Boeing declines to explain specific difference between the quarters. “Rotorcraft deliveries reflect normal quarterly fluctuations,” says the firm.

Nonetheless, a faster delivery pace in the first half of the year comes as the company has to work through a growing order book. In June, US Special Operations Forces signed a $194 million contract to buy seven additional MH-47G Chinooks. In July, the US Army gave notice that it plans to grant a multiyear contract for the production or remanufacture of up to 600 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

Outside the company’s rotorcraft business unit, continued foreign object debris issues has caused the US Air Force (USAF) to slow delivery of the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus in-flight refuelling tanker. While the company delivered its first seven tankers in the first quarter, it only delivered five in the second quarter.

FOD found inside new KC-46As delivered to the USAF is a result of cultural problems, said Will Roper, USAF assistant secretary of the air force for acquisition, technology and logistics, at the Paris air show in June. The service is finding tools, rubbish and left-over parts such as loose nuts during inspections, he said. As a result of additional inspections, the USAF is accepting aircraft at a pace of about one per month.

Additionally, the company has delivered a total of five F-15 fighters in the first six months of 2019, compared to 10 for the whole of 2018. It has delivered 10 F/A-18E/F fighters in the first six months of 2019, compared to 17 for the whole of 2018. And, the firm has delivered eight P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft in the first six months of 2019, compared to 16 for the whole of 2018.

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