During the past 30 years, the Defense division of Boeing has not been at the party, winning only two major contracts, the design and manufacture of the KC-46 tanker aircraft and the P8 Poseidon, over the ten programs. aeronautics launched by the American armies. Importantly, fighter design know-how was in danger of not surviving the end of the F15 and F18 production lines.
By winning the contract to replace the US Air Force's T-38 Talon for the training of young fighter pilots, the Seattle manufacturer is regaining a foothold in this market, after having already recorded a great success of $ 800 million for the construction of the on-board refueling drone MQ-25 Stingray, and while awaiting the 'study of the next US Navy embarked fighter, a project which from 2019 will benefit from $ 5 billion per year from the Navy budget.
But this industrial victory was built on an industrial and financial approach that broke with what had been practiced for 30 years in the United States in terms of defense contracts.
First of all, Boeing's offer, namely 351 TX and 46 simulators for a total amount of $ 9 billion, is a firm offer, the price is guaranteed by the manufacturer, within a controlled and predictable budget logic. This amount is also $ 10 billion less than the initial envelope provided by the US Air Force for the program, which says a lot about the efforts made by Boeing to win this contract.
The very design of the device represents a homecoming for US industry. No more delusional technological goals, or unattainable promises, the TX is designed on the basis of cutting-edge technologies, certainly, but proven, for the benefit of the best performance-price ratio of the device. It must be recognized that for $ 20 million per unit, the TX offers many capabilities, such as carrying many types of ammunition, a most modern cockpit, the ability to be refueled in flight, and very good performance in air. maneuverability term.
Finally, the on-board technology has not come at the expense of the maintenance and availability of the device. On the contrary, a particular effort has been made for rapid, efficient and economical maintenance of the device. Here again, this is a break with the latest US aeronautical programs.
The economic aspect has not been neglected, since Boeing presented an industrial benefits plan of 17.000 direct jobs and subcontracting in the United States, covering 34 States. Based on US taxation, this volume will ensure a tax return of more than $ 6 billion over 10 years, without taking into account possible exports.
Admittedly, this is only a training device program, by nature less subject to technological imperatives and uncertainties than weapon planes. But the sum of the breaks in Boeing's approach probably underlies a profound change in the Pentagon's acquisition policy, in accordance with the objectives announced by Defense Secretary James Mattis when he took office.
This change in strategy of the US armies is above all the consequence of the rapid upheavals underway in the world. For 2 years, US doctrine has been considering the possibility of a major conflict on two or more fronts, facing countries which are rapidly developing their military powers, such as China and Russia. Today, it is no longer a question of developing US technological and industrial performance, but of having, within short deadlines, high-performance, reliable equipment in sufficient numbers to meet the security challenges that will not fail to appear. from 2025.
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