Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Boeing's military aircraft slip

Boeing issued a subtle reminder to the Pentagon recently... essentially, "if you don't choose our birds now, we won't be able to stay competitive for the long-term."

So I have to ask why? Why hasn't Boeing been winning these competitions?

To tie into the last posting, on potential JSF shortcomings. Has the bar been set too high for anyone to achieve without some program "turbulence"? Could Boeing have avoided these JSF issues?

What are the differentiators between a LM proposal and a Boeing proposal on manned fighter aircraft? Why has LM been stealing the show?

With regard to the unmanned programs recently lost by Boeing, I think it's poor positioning of their solution. For BAMS they elected (with Raytheon) to reconfigure a manned Gulfstream for unmanned ops, that's poor judgement. The government was looking for unmanned-specific platforms, not a engineering project with square pegs and round holes (a perception, justified or not, of this type of reconfig).

Whether anyone beside Northrop Grumman could have won BAMS is a legitimate debate. The requirements were pretty much tailored to the Global Hawk: the GH Maritime Demonstrator was a funded Navy proof-of-concept leading to BAMS, and the GH is a proven platform (the worlds most advanced). Pretty stiff competition.

Tough luck on UCAS too... Boeing and Northrop competed head-to-head, each with development funding. The USAF has put its UCAV plans on hold (perhaps a next-gen Reaper by 2011-15), leaving the Navy as the first mover. You don't need a doctorate in naval strategy to know Northrop Grumman had the edge... as one of the two major shipbuilders, they are much better equipped to troubleshoot shipboard operations (a very harsh environment for electronics, not the weather, the EM interferences).

CSAR-X would be a good win for Boeing, but theprogram has been put on hold, after initially being won by... Boeing. I am interested to see how this plays out. Boeing has advanced unmanned capabilities that could supplement or replace manned CSAR at some point in the future, will those play a role in a new CSAR-X competition?

What does Boeing need to do to win a competition?? Pricing, technology?