Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Boeing's move against the JSF could impact on UK plans

On the day the British Secretary of State indicated a decision to acquire three evaluation copies of the F-35 (JSF or "Joint Strike Fighter"), Boeing has launched a new aircraft to compete with the F-35, a variant on the F-15 Eagle.

At first glance this appears nonsensical - given the JSF represents new technology - however the Boeing offering represents a genuine political threat to the program.  Given that the program is the largest over budget in a Washington consumed with AIG and financial mis-spending, politicians focused on mid-term elections cannot afford to be seen to be backing over-spending programs at a time of pseudo-austerity.

Boeing is targeting the likes of the Air National Guard with an F-15 product with a nod to the F-22 built by Lockheed Martin.  Adapted conformal fuel cells with room for some internal carriage of ordnance and special treatments to the outer skin gives elements of stealth and cleaner performance - with a familiar airframe at a time of budget stretch.

In addition, Boeing is a company with no small political clout and has faced falling demand for passenger aircraft, delays to the air tanker program, and potential cuts in the Future Combat System.

The company needs an 'on message' option and this is interestingly timed.

For the UK requirement for VSTOL variants to fly from the Future Aircraft Carrier this is potentially a very bad news day.

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