Selected for three major military contracts: Refueling drone, UH-1N Huey replacement, advanced trainer jet program
By MARY ANN HOLLEY
Boeing is in hiring mode, says Steve McDerman, directing business representative for International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 837.
In the past few months, the U.S. government has awarded the Boeing St. Louis plant three major contracts:
• An $805.3 million contract to design, build and deliver four unmanned refueling drones;
• The first part of a contract worth about $2.38 billion for replacement helicopters; and
• A $9.2 billion contract for new Air Force training jets.
To learn more about jobs at Boeing, visit Boeing.com and search St. Louis jobs.
Meanwhile, the company has begun construction of its new 777X commercial jets with a market estimated at about $75 billion per year. Given that Boeing currently generates $56.7 billion in revenues from its commercial aircraft business, the growth opportunity is huge.
‘HIRING AND JOB SECURITY’
“Getting the contract for the training jets is huge,” McDerman said. “We’re expecting a lot of hiring and job security over the next decade.”
McDerman said Boeing is looking to add at least 300 more workers at the new Berkeley Plant. Those employees will be building components for the new 777X, a long-haul, double-aisle airliner designed to carry up to 400 passengers while using less fuel than the competition. The 777X replaces Boeing’s highly successful 777, introduced in 1995.
The Boeing Composite Center, a new 420,000-square-foot facility at 8900 Frost Avenue in Berkeley, was constructed in 2016 to facilitate construction of composite parts for the 777X. Jobs range from entry level mechanics to top level engineers.
Boeing had 306 orders for the 777X shortly after opening the facility and expects the 777X work to generate 700 jobs nationally over the next few years.
About 45 percent of the drone work will be performed in St. Louis, the U.S. Department of Defense said. The drones, the MQ-25A Stingray, will be used to refuel aircraft for the U.S. Navy.
The Navy published a request for proposals in 2017 that sought a drone that could refuel, and extend the combat range, of fighter jets including Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets, Boeing EA-18G Growlers and Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters. Boeing beat out Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Atomics. The Navy also plans to buy another 72 of the drones for a total cost of $13 billion, with delivery in 2024.
The award to Boeing kicks off what the Navy is aiming to be a six-year development effort integrating drones into the Navy’s carrier air wing.
The U.S. military currently uses manned aircraft to perform in-flight refueling, such as the Air Force’s KC-135 Stratotanker. However, such aircraft are much too large to be deployed aboard an aircraft carrier and require a crew of three to operate.
“When operational, MQ-25A will improve the performance, efficiency and safety of the carrier air wing and provide longer range and greater persistence tanking capability to execute missions that otherwise could not be performed,” the Navy said in its statement.
Last year, Boeing partnered with Italian aircraft manufacturer Leonardo in a bid to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging fleet of UH-1N Huey helicopters. The bid used Leonardo’s MH-139 multi-mission helicopter, which is based on Leonardo’s AW139 commercial chopper. The contract also includes operations, maintenance, training systems and support equipment.
The recent award of nearly $375.6 million is for the first four helicopters in a contract for up to 84. The new helicopters will be used to monitor intercontinental ballistic missile sites, as well as training, test and operational support, Air Force officials said.
The Boeing-Leonardo partnership beat out bids from Sierra Nevada Corp. and Sikorsky, a unit of Lockheed Martin. Boeing’s bid will save taxpayers $1.7 billion, according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. The cost of the project was originally estimated at $4.1 billion.
“Strong competition drove down costs for the program, resulting in $1.7 billion in savings to the taxpayer,” Wilson said.
The helicopters will be assembled by Italian aircraft company Leonardo at the company’s northeast Philadelphia plant where it produces the AW139, with Boeing integrating specific military components at its facility here, company officials said.
The order is expected be completed by September 2031π.
AIR FORCE TRINING JET
A Boeing-Saab partnership also defeated Lockheed to win a $9.2 billion contract to build new Air Force training jets to hone the flying skills of future aviators.
The 351 to 475 training aircraft and 120 ground-based training systems will be produced at Boeing’s St. Louis plant through 2034, keeping Boeing’s tactical aircraft business strong after the F-15 and F/A-18 Super Hornet lines are discontinued in the next decade.
The T-X Trainer program will replace the Air Force’s 50-year-old fleet of T-38 supersonic jets that have helped prepare fighter pilots for combat since John F. Kennedy was president.
Boeing could also claim hundreds of overseas orders for planes and spare parts as the Pentagon program spurs other countries to upgrade their trainer fleets. The Teal Group of Fairfax, VA, forecasts a global market for 2,441 turbofan-powered trainers valued at $30.3 billion over the next decade.
“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of unwavering focus by the Boeing and Saab team,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing’s defense business. “It is a direct result of our joint investment in developing a system centered on the unique requirements of the U.S. Air Force. We expect T-X to be a franchise program for much of this century.”
The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract will allow the Air Force to buy up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators, the Air Force said in a Sept. 27 statement, although the current plan is to buy 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment.
(Information from Bloomberg Business, Fortune magazine, St. Louis Business Journal and Defense News.)