The US Air Force on Friday awarded Boeing a 2.1 billion USD contract for 15 KC-46A Pegasus tanker aircraft, spare engines and wing air refueling pod kits. This order is the third low-rate initial production lot for Boeing. The first two came in August 2016 and combined 19 included airplanes, as well as spare parts.
Boeing plans to build 179 of the 767-based refueling aircraft for the air force to replace its KC-135 tanker fleet. Deliveries will begin later this year.
“This award is great news for the joint Boeing-Air Force team and reinforces the need for this highly efficient and capable tanker aircraft,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager. “Our Boeing industry team is hard at work building and testing KC-46 aircraft, and we look forward to first delivery.”
Boeing received an initial contract in 2011 to design and develop the Air Force’s next-generation tanker aircraft. As part of that contract, Boeing built four test aircraft – two configured as 767-2Cs and two as KC-46A tankers. Those test aircraft, along with the first production plane, have completed nearly 1,500 flight hours to date.
Boeing and partner Saab on Tuesday 20 December completed the first flight of the all-new T-X aircraft,. Bot companies earlier joined efforts in an attempt to win the US Air Force’s TX competition, which is aimed at replacing hundreds of ageing T-38 Talon trainers.
During the 55-minute flight, lead T-X Test Pilot Steven Schmidt and Chief Pilot for Air Force Programs Dan Draeger, who was in the seat behind Schmidt, validated key aspects of the single-engine jet and demonstrated the performance of the design.
“I’ve been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly,” Schmidt said. “The aircraft met all expectations. It’s well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach.”
“It was a smooth flight and a successful test mission,” Draeger added. “I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor’s seat, which is critical during training.”
Both pilots trained for the flight using the complete Boeing T-X system, which includes ground-based training and simulation.
Boeing and Saab revealed their first two T-X aircraft in September. The second is currently in ground testing and expected to fly in early 2017.According to Boeing, with one engine, twin tails, stadium seating and an advanced cockpit with embedded training, their T-X is more affordable and flexible than older, existing aircraft.
Airbus Helicopters on 22 November announced it has delivered the last of 15 H135 helicopters for the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) for the Australian Defence Force (ADF), completing on-time deliveries of the full fleet. The whole fleet of 15 helicopters was manufcatured at the Airbus Helicopters production plant in Donauwörth, Germany. Airheadsfly.com visited the site earlier in 2016.
Under the JP9000 Phase 7 HATS project, a new joint helicopter training program for Navy and Army aircrew is to utilise the 15 EC135T2+ helicopters, along with flight simulators and a new flight-deck equipped sea-going training vessel. Boeing Defence Australia is the prime contractor for the new training system, partnered by Thales Australia who supplies the flight simulators and synthetic training devices.
“Airbus Helicopters is proud to know that Boeing has accepted now all 15 of their new H135s, on time and on budget”, said Peter Harris, Head of Governmental Sales for Australia – Pacific. “Following contract signature in November of 2014, and in the space of only two years, we have trained the initial cadre of Boeing and Commonwealth aircrew and technicians and all 15 aircraft have now been accepted”.
Boeing’s HATS Director Terry Nichols said that the Boeing team is very happy with the performance thus far of the H135 and commended Airbus Helicopters for their on-time delivery.
Airbus Helicopters has delivered around 1,200 H135s to customers around the globe who have logged a total of more than four million flight hours.
The US State Department this week approved the sale of 72 F-15QA fighter jets to Qatar, plus 40 F-18E/F Super Hornet jets to Kuwait. Although contracts for both deals remain unsigned for now, it’s good news for Boeing and the company’s production of fighter jets.
The Qatar contract is worth 21.1 billion USD in total, while the Kuwaiti deal for 32 single and 8 dual seat Super Hornets involves 10.1 billion USD. The White House approved the proposed sale earlier this year, following a long time of delays and uncertainty. Meanwhile, Qatar sought out 24 Dassault Rafales for 7.5 billion USD, while Kuwait chose to buy 28 Eurofighter Typhoons from Italy for 9.1 billion USD.
These signed deals for European fighter jets raise the question wether both countries will still actually take the bait now layed out by the US. While requested by Qatar and Kuwait years ago, the actual purchase of F-15s and F-18s is far from final. Following the approval from Washington and this week’s green light from the State Departement, both countries remained quiet.
However, it is no secret that money flows easily in both Qatar and Kuwait, and that’s reason enough for Boeing to be in a festive mood. The F-15 and F-18 have generated cash flow since 1972 and 1980 respectively, and now are likely to do that for a couple of years more.
Currently, Boeing is producing what at first seemed to be the last batch of advanced F-15 Eagles for Saudi Arabia, plus the final F-18 Super Hornets and F-18 Growlers for the US Navy and Australia. The many US jobs involved now seem safe for some time to come.
Featured image (top): No sunset yet for the F-15. (Image © Jorge Ruivo)
After many years of hesitation, the US this week gave the green light for the sale of fighter jets to Kuwait and Qatar – although it may very well be too late. Since requesting the jets, both countries have decided to buy Eurofighter Typhoons and Dassault Rafales respectively. Their response to the green light from Washington remains unclear at this time.
Kuwait in 2015 requested to buy up at least F-18 Super Hornets to replace ageing older model F-18s, while Qatar’s request to purchase up to 72 Boeing F-15s goes even further back. Washington since has kept both countries in the dark about their request right until this week, when the White House notified US Congress that it approves the sale of the fighter jets.
The decision should be seen in light of the recent multi-billion military aid deal between the US and Israel, the biggest ever between those two countries. Probably to keep things in balance, the White House now decided to favour Kuwait’s and Qatar’s requests as well – doing the US economy a big favour on the side. Both contracts would be worth billions and billions of dollars (in fact, 20 billion in total), much of which will go into Boeing’s pocket. The aircraft manufacturer produces both the F-15 and F-18.
But no sale is final until a contract has been inked. And whether Kuwait and Qatar will actually do that, remains to be seen. Kuwait earlier this year did sign a deal for 22 Eurofighter Typhoons, worth 8 billion USD. Qatar in 2015 decided on 24 Dassault Rafales, worth 6.3 billion EUR.
That’s a lot of money to pay already. It may be the same money that Kuwait and Qater waved in front of the US before. Time will tell if there is any money left for Washington and Boeing to grab. If not, then Washington may hope to sell brand new F-16s to Bahrain – another pending deal that was okayed this week by Washington.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest.
Featured image: A USAF F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing on 12 November 2015 over the northern Mediterranean. The unit is deployed to Incirlik AB in Turkey as part of Operation Inherent Resolve (Image © Senior Airman Kate Thornton/USAF)