Boeing’s F/A-18 line has orders with the USN to withstand production up to the 1st quarter of 2015. The F-15 line has orders with Singapore and Saudi Arabia that will keep eagles coming off until the end of 2019.
When put in retrospect, that is not a lot of time. With budgets in North America/Europe becoming nearly non-existent for defense contracts, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East are now crucial in order to keep talent, jobs, and money flowing for manufacturers. This year, two major contracts are at stake. One is for 36 F/A-18 Super Hornet’s for Brazil, while the other calls for 60 F-15 Silent Eagle aircraft for South Korea. Winning both of these contracts alone would give another year to the Hornet family and another two years for the Eagle nest (2016, 2021). In addition, it would make the airframe price fall for other potential buyers.
The only thing is, the above two contests are the last two major one’s for export orders. From 2013 onward, the majority of contracts would be for small buys that would call for a reduction in fighter production and possibly layoff’s for manufacturers across the board. On Boeing’s side they see potential in Denmark and Malaysia for the F-18, and the UAE for the Silent Eagle. Although Boeing is not sure on a fourth MYP contract from the USN, they are confident that more EA-18G growlers will be needed past 2015.
The F-35 program is also a big contender for Boeing, as some countries (and even the USN) have become more than worried about the benefit for price they are getting. The South Korean contract alone will have to test the F-35 via Simulator because the testing program is still behind schedule, making all test aircraft unavailable for flying. This is not to say Boeing is on greater footing, as the Silent Eagle does not technically exist, although the technology presented can be simulated better because of recently acquired F-15K’s/Boeing demonstrator. As for Brazil’s F/X-II competition, it seems to be entirely based on politics. With strong governmental support and newly created partnerships with Brazilian company’s Embraer and Elbit Systems, it comes across as a strong contender.
The next few years will be very telling for Boeing’s fast jet industry, although full confidence exists in the final product, one has to look at both sides of the glass for the potential outcome.
After discussions for a 60 aircraft contract with French Company Dassault for their Rafale fighter failed during final negotiations, the UAE decided to take competing proposals into consideration. Currently, they are viewing the Eurofighter Typhoon along with Boeing’s F-15E Strike Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Boeing says it is very possible that another Middle Eastern fighter contract could be announced this year:
“We hope to see potentially an announcement this year but these are all competitive and all government-to-government type transactions. But we are optimistic and we may see a decision in the region for another fighter aircraft,”
—- Paul Oliver, Boeing chief of Middle East/Africa operations.
“Boeing Defense, Space & Security will showcase the next generation cockpit for the F-15 Silent Eagle multirole fighter – the first public showing of the aircraft’s cockpit systems. Additionally, there will be a 3D interactive display of the Silent Eagle’s multimission capabilities.”
In addition, Boeing will continue their P.R. with an F-15K Slam Eagle demo.
“With a number of pending international sales opportunities for a highly capable, proven, affordable aircraft like the F-15, it is premature and inappropriate for us to even speculate on when the production line might close”
Fighting for a contract in which the production line currently has no aircraft coming off the line does not look good on Boeing’s part. Not to mention the thousands of jobs that support F-15 production operations will have to take a VERY long break.. considering any Silent Eagle contracts wont be awarded until at least October 2012. Then again, Boeing has gone through this all before back in 2000, taking 2001 off from production and winning the South Korean contract.
Lets root for the F-15 Line.. if it can be saved once, it can be saved again!!
It is not breaking news that the F/A-18 Super Hornet is a contender for Japan’s new fighter contract to replace there 40 ancient (but none the less brilliant) F-4 Phantom fighters.
The Super is competing with the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon in the contract. As with the typical Lockheed fair, the F-35’s would be available for a small percentage of industry transfer and a 2016-2018 delivery date. Re-read that sentence. The chance of seeing F-35’s flying for Japan in less than six years is about the same percentage as the USAF buying the Silent Eagle.
The Eurofighter is a good potential candidate, expressing that the data analysis and full industry transfer could be given to Japan if they decide to buy.
Then you have the Super Hornet. Boeing recently announced that they would give up to a 75% technology transfer to Japan if they were to purchase the fighter. The main components would all be outsourced to Japanese industry similar to how the F-15K/SG parts has been produced in South Korea since 2004. As with the F-15 line, the final assembly and test flights of the Japanese Super Hornet would continue to be here in St. Louis, keeping the line progressing. It’s also noteworthy to say the Super Hornet would be much cheaper than the F-35 and Eurofighter offering, considering the F-35’s projected 50-70 million price tag has nearly doubled in the last five years.
In my opinion, Japan should just go with ordering new F-15’s. The Silent Eagle is a very capable fighter, and it would have some commonality with the existing F-15 force Japan currently fly’s instead of needing new training and facility’s to accommodate the aircraft. It was reported earlier this year that the Silent Eagle was eliminated from Japanese consideration because it was a 4.7 Generation fighter.. in other words not the trademarked “5th Gen”. Japan would be wise to order F-15’s for its fleet over any other aircraft. Considering that is not going to happen, the Super Hornet would be the second best choice politically, financially, and reliability wise.
Boeing will embark on a short but rather large marketing campaign in Brazil this week. The campaign will include showing a modified F/A-18 Super Hornet (Block II) flight simulator to both the government and general public of Brazil. The general public will be able to fly the simulator as well as get general information on the aircraft’s capability’s.
In addition, Boeing will host a question and answer session with the National Defense Committee of the Brazilian Senate about the aircraft and how it will benefit both the nation’s defense and public industry.
The F/A-18 Super Hornet Block II is currently one of the finalists for the new fighter contract in Brazil.
Boeing still has until 2014 to achieve additional contracts for it’s F/A-18 Super Hornet production line. Hopefully things will improve.
Boeing delivered five more F/A-18 Super Hornet’s to the RAAF during the first weeks of July and August. These are the first delivery’s to the RAAF this year, and the second batch to be pre-wired into EA-18 Growler configuration.
The final four Super Hornet’s are expected to be delivered before the end of the year, brining an end to the 24 aircraft contract.
Unless another one is ordered in the near future?
Japan is interested in purchasing F/A-18 Super Hornet’s and dropping the F-35 according to new reports. They blame the F-35’s astronomical rising costs and increase of delays as the reason. There have been conflicting reports this years as to whether or not Boeing would allow them to build the airframes in Japan under license.
More on this coming soon.