While their colleagues in the commercial sector face the challenge of ensuring that production rates can keep pace with record-breaking demand, the folks at Boeing Defense & Space must be wishing for a similar set of problems.
Instead, the military unit has a worse headache: how to ensure the survival of its remaining activities. After a manufacturing run for the US Air Force and a host of international customers, its final C-17 transport left Long Beach, California late last year, marking an end to more than 70 years of activity at the historic site.
Teamed with Lockheed Martin, Boeing had expected to secure the USAF’s long-range strike bomber deal late last year. Now it must hope the Government Accountability Office can find fault with Northrop Grumman’s selection if it is to benefit from the $80 billion project.
But worse things could happen. Failure to win more orders for its aged F-15 and younger F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would make it harder for Boeing to pursue “sixth-generation” fighter opportunities with the USAF and US Navy, where it lags behind F-35 manufacturer Lockheed. And defeat in the USAF’s lucrative T-X trainer competition could see it exit that market altogether.
Not buying a Boeing tanker was a step too far for the US Department of Defense – but to sustain its other military segments the company will have to unveil winning designs if it is to continue its 100-year heritage in style.