Stinging losses in high-profile fighter competitions in India and Japan have refining proposals and bid strategies as the manufacturer eyes several key international contests.
The company is looking “to put some new things on the table,” says Jeff Kohler, vice president for business development at Boeing Military Aircraft. The move comes after the/F was eliminated early in India and also lost in Japan to the Joint Strike Fighter.
The move has some urgency, with South Korea having kicked off a competition for 60 new fighters; bids are due mid-year and a source selection is expected before November. The Brazilian government is also due to make a decision around mid-year in its protracted fighter contest.
Because of the sensitivity of the competitions, Kohler would not disclose what changes are being made, but indicates part of the effort is working with the U.S. government over technology release. Boeing may also further expand its partnership effort with local companies to improve its odds of winning.
The size of the South Korean program gives it particular weight. The country has backed off some requirements — such as the need for internal carriage — to open the field to more contestants. For Boeing that means a decision on whether to bid itsSilent Eagle configuration, with stealth features such as a conformal weapons bay and canted tails, or an F-15 basically in the new Saudi Arabian configuration with fly-by-wire system, digital electronic warfare system and an active, electronically scanned array radar (the Silent Eagle would also feature those systems). Although formally a decision has not been made, the Silent Eagle offering is the front runner, in part because the conformal bays are made in South Korea.
One of the issues in South Korea could be the delivery schedule. Seoul wants to receive its first fighter in early 2016. Kohler sees that as an advantage for the F-15 offering over the rivalF-35 Joint Strike Fighter bid, arguing a reduction in near-term U.S. purchases of the JSF in the fiscal 2013 budget request will make it harder for the rival to meet that schedule. F-35 program officials, for their part, argue any U.S. reductions would merely open production slots for international customers.
Boeing also is keeping its eyes closely on an Australian review of its fighter plans after the country said it would decide this year whether to go ahead with the purchase of a dozen F-35s (on top of two its has already committed to acquiring) or wait for the program to stabilize. A deferral of the F-35 purchase could open the door to a further buy of F/A-18E/Fs as a gapfiller.
The fighter wins could allow Boeing to reach its goal already this year of gaining 30% of revenue from international military business. Five years ago the level was around 7%. But the real challenge is not reaching the 30% target, but being able to sustain it, notes Mark Kronenberg, vice president of international business development for. The Asia-Pacific region has been the largest source of that revenue.