For Boeing, the official opening of its new UK parts manufacturing factory probably fell on the wrong date – coming, as it did, less than a week after London was revealed to be in the market for $3.5 billion-worth of new Chinook helicopters.
That meant many of the questions the airframer faced ahead of the inauguration ceremony were about whether it has invested enough back into the UK, given the nation’s healthy appetite for its defence platforms.
Of course, with a substantial fleet of CH-47s already in service, the UK was always likely to head back to Boeing for replacements, with there being few options out there for heavy-lift helicopters. But the potential buy comes on the back of previous deals for AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, C-17 transports, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, and strong interest in acquiring the E-7 Wedgetail – Boeing products all.
On the face of it, the investment of over £40 million ($51.5 million) in the new plant is small beer, particularly against the billions flowing back across the Atlantic.
But there are other criteria to consider beyond that headline figure, such as the UK’s capability as a manufacturing location and the dollar value of the site’s annual output.
And, as Brexit looms – with a nervous Airbus watching with dismay – perhaps the UK needs all the friends money can buy.