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Boeing Awarded $2.4B Contract for New Helicopters

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By Debbie Gregory.

Boeing has been awarded a $2.38 billion contract by the U.S. Air Force to provide 84 of its MH-139 helicopter and related support (training devices and support equipment) to replace the more than 40-year-old UH-1N “Huey” helicopters, used to protect America’s intercontinental ballistic missile bases.

“We’re grateful for the Air Force’s confidence in our MH-139 team,” said David Koopersmith, vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift. “The MH-139 exceeds mission requirements, it’s also ideal for VIP transport, and it offers the Air Force up to $1 billion in acquisition and lifecycle cost savings.”

The MH-139 derives from the Leonardo AW139, which is used by more than 270 governments, militaries and companies worldwide. Leonardo will assemble the helicopters at its northeast Philadelphia plant, with Boeing integrating military-specific components at its facility south of that city.

“The new helicopter will be an important tool for Airmen charged with securing and defending the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the Air Force said in a statement announcing the award.

The MH-139 helicopters will be the product of a joint effort between Boeing and Leonardo. Leonardo will assemble the helicopters at its northeast Philadelphia plant, with Boeing integrating military-specific components at its facility south of that city.

Earlier this year, six U.S. Senators wrote a letter to the Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson urging the Air Force to expedite the acquisition of a replacement helicopter.

Hueys first entered Air Force service in 1970.

“We’re proud to provide the U.S. Air Force with solutions across the entire services ecosystem,” said Ed Dolanski, president of U.S. Government Services, Boeing Global Services. “With the AW139 platform’s more than 2 million flight hours and established supply chain, we look forward to applying our expertise to drive cost savings while supporting mission readiness.”

The first delivery of an operational helicopter is expected in Fiscal Year 2021.

Boeing to Acquire Millennium Space Systems

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By Debbie Gregory.

In a bid to expand Boeing’s satellite and space portfolio, talent and capabilities, the company announced it plans to acquire military contractor Millennium Space Systems. Both companies are based in El Segundo, California.

Boeing is already well known for its work in assembling school bus-sized satellites. Once the deal closes, Millennium Space Systems will report to the general manager of Boeing’s Phantom Works research division.

The privately-owned company, whose main customer is the U.S. Air Force, develops and manufactures military satellites with expertise in complex systems engineering.

One of Millennium Space Systems’ satellites developed for the Air Force is expected to launch next year. It will host an experimental missile-warning sensor as part of a larger Air Force effort to develop next-generation overhead persistent infrared technologies.

“I am proud of the talented and dedicated team we’ve built at Millennium Space Systems over the past 17 years,” said Stan Dubyn, CEO of Millennium Space Systems. “By combining our tools, talent, technologies and culture, we’ll be able to do even more incredible things as part of Boeing.”

Millennium Space Systems was founded in 2001 and has approximately 260 employees. It has developed satellites ranging from 50 kg to more than 6,000 kg.

Small satellites, which are cheaper to make and launch, are increasingly being used for commercial purposes, such as capturing Earth imagery and providing broadband internet.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a challenge that would reward commercial companies that can launch smaller rockets, at a moment’s notice, that give tiny satellites a dedicated ride to space.

Once finalized, Millennium Space Systems will become a Boeing subsidiary, operating under its current business model and reporting to Mark Cherry, vice president and general manager of Phantom Works.

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of third quarter 2018.

Boeing Pitches Updated F-15X to U.S. Air Force

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Boeing Co. is pitching a new version of the F-15 Eagle to the U.S. Air Force that combines an updated airframe with an unprecedented number of anti-air missiles.

The F-15 Eagle was first introduced in 1972, and although it has undergone many changes in its near five decades history, it has consistently carried the same number of missiles. The newest version, known as F-15X, would be equipped with improved avionics and radars and would carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles.

The F-15X configuration includes a flat-panel glass cockpit, JHMCS II helmet mounted display, revised internal wing structure, fly-by-wire controls, APG-82 AESA radar, activation of outer wing stations one and nine, advanced mission computer, low-profile heads-up display, updated radio and satellite communications, the highly advanced Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System electronic warfare and electronic surveillance suite, and Legion Pod-mounted infrared search and track system.

Boeing intends to deliver the F-15X at a flyaway cost well below that of an F-35A—which runs about $95M per unit. It has been speculated that Boeing is willing to offer the F-15X under a fixed priced contract. In other words, whatever the jets actually end up costing, the Pentagon will pay an agreed upon fixed price, with Boeing guaranteeing that it will absorb any overages.

While the Air Force had previously sworn off non-stealthy jets, the price of stealth aircraft, and the cost to keep them flying, is proving exorbitant. Spending money now to acquire F-15Xs may actually save money in the long run. The Air Force already intends to upgrade its F-15C/D fleet so that it could remain viable into at least the 2030s, but doing so would cost many millions of dollars per jet. The projected service life for the F-15X is 20,000 hours, about three times that of most fighters currently being produced. That means that this fleet could be in service until the end of this century!

By Debbie Gregory.

Despite the government’s lack of confidence in Boeing’s ability to deliver the KC-46 Pegasus military aerial refueling aircraft, Boeing has forecast delivery of 18 units by year’s end.

“Boeing has been overly optimistic in all of their scheduled reports,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee. “One of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force.”

Boeing’s design was seen as relatively low risk as the tanker bid was based on a modified commercial 767 passenger jet. But delivery of the first KC-46 aircraft is expected to be more than a year late.

Boeing has 34 tankers in various phases of completion.

Before delivery can be made, Boeing must conduct flight tests to certify that:

  • The F-16 fighter and the C-17 transport jet are capable of receiving fuel from the tanker under all conditions;
  • The new tanker can be refueled by the older KC-135 tanker; and
  • The newly developed fix for the camera systems is operational.

The price tag for the development and production of 179 tankers is estimated to be $41 billion.

In the international marketplace, the delays gave an advantage to the KC-46’s competition, the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport. But the USAF had awarded the development contract to Boeing which, at the time,  was declared “the clear winner” under a formula that considered the bid prices, how well each of the planes met war-fighting needs and what it would cost to operate them over 40 years

The tanker features a new advanced refueling boom that extends 58 feet out from the rear of the aircraft, a rigid pipe with wings sprouting either side to make it maneuverable.

In contrast to the older KC-135 tankers currently in use by the Air Force today, the KC-46 the operator sits at a computer station behind the tanker’s cockpit instead of laying prone on their belly at the rear of the plane. The cameras provide the visuals rather than the operator having to look out a window at the receiving aircraft.

“When you are flying and fighting at night, the capabilities of the cameras are a game-changer,” said Sean Martin, the KC-46 chief boom operator. “On this airplane, it’s the same as daytime.”

By Debbie Gregory.

The contract for two refrigerator units that were destined for Air Force One has been canceled.

The $24 million contract would have provided two new “chiller” units that would have been installed in 2020. The current Air Force One planes have been in use since 1990, and are scheduled for replacement in 2024. Boeing reached a deal this year to build replacements for those two presidential airplanes for $3.9 billion.

That would have meant that the $24 million dollar chiller units were only going to be in use for four years.

The Air Force and White House Military Office decided to cancel the purchase until the new Boeing Air Force One planes are delivered, according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Wilson stressed that if the delivery of those planes is delayed, they will have to reconsider the possibility of replacement.

Technically speaking, any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the president becomes Air Force One, but the moniker usually refers to the two identical planes that have been specifically modified to meet the security and logistical needs of the commander-in-chief and his flying staff.

The refrigerators on Air Force One are required to carry 3,000 meals in order to feed passengers and crew for four weeks in case of an emergency that prevents the plane from landing.

The Air Force has said the refrigerators currently on board Air Force One are based on old technology and were designed for short-term food storage, and are increasingly failing in hot and humid environments.

Rep. Joe Courtney, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power and projection forces, who had inquired about the refrigerator contract, praised the Air Force for terminating it, saying it “didn’t pass the smell test.”

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