Boeing Outlines Defense Growth Areas In The Pacific

Credit: Chen Chuanren/ShowNews

SINGAPORE—Boeing's defense business is looking for expansive growth in the Asia-Pacific, with market opportunities worth $70 billion over the next five years focused on growth in missions such as maritime surveillance and refueling, in addition to the company’s traditional sales of fighters, helicopters and transports.

Boeing Defense CEO Leanne Caret, in a briefing ahead of the Singapore Airshow, said to meet this growing market, the company is looking at ways to accelerate development of its aircraft and build new systems locally as opposed to just exporting them from the U.S.

“Even with everything that’s happening in the pandemic, the defense and space outlook is stable and there’s incredible opportunity in this region,” Caret said.

Repeatedly pressed for specifics on potential sales, Caret avoided identifying potential customers for aircraft on offer such as the P-8, KC-46 and F/A-18. The P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft is garnering demand from around the world, Caret said, with countries such as Australia, India, New Zealand and South Korea in the Indo-Pacific either having fielded or ordered the aircraft.

Boeing’s KC-46 tanker has also reached the region; the first delivery to Japan was last year. The refueler could be an option for Indonesia, though Caret would not offer specifics on this possibility when asked. The tanker’s progress in the U.S. continues to be hindered by development issues related to its Remote Vision System, though Caret said the U.S. Air Force’s effort to roll out interim operational capabilities means that 70% of the fleet can be refueled. Full operational capability is still years away.

The company is also offering the F/A-18 Super Hornet Block 3 to countries in the region, both as an upgrade to existing fleets and as a new buy.

Caret said the Super Hornet will be offered to India for its navy, with the jet already tested on a “ski-jump” ramp to demonstrate that it can operate on an Indian carrier. However, Caret said the company is waiting to see Indian Air Force requirements for its next fighter, pointing out that another option from Boeing could be a better fit. This would open the door for a potential F-15EX sale to India.

With increased outreach in the region, Boeing is looking to build more of its aircraft and other systems in the countries that will buy them. Caret pointed to the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, or Loyal Wingman, that is built in Australia; two examples have already flown. This development would not be possible without joint investment between Boeing and Australia.

The company needs to accelerate its production to meet the potential growth, and Caret pointed to two existing programs as examples. First, the T-7A Red Hawk trainer aircraft for the U.S. Air Force went from concept to its first flight within three years, largely thanks to the use of digital engineering. Secondly, the MQ-25 Stingray uncrewed tanker has refueled three U.S. Navy aircraft and demonstrated carrier deck operations, all within the past year.

Brian Everstine

Brian Everstine is the Pentagon Editor for Aviation Week, based in Washington, D.C. Before joining Aviation Week in August 2021, he covered the Pentagon for Air Force Magazine. Brian began covering defense aviation in 2011 as a reporter for Military Times.