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Beset by political controversy over its bid to win the KC-X tanker contract, budget cutbacks at the Pentagon, and endless troubles with getting its 787 Dreamliner airborne, a Fool could be forgiven for thinking so. Sometimes, it seems this gang just "plane" can't shoot straight.
But it can still jam
And then there are weeks like this one. On Monday, Boeing gave us a glimpse of what it can accomplish when things go right, announcing the expansion of its EA-18G Growler program to full production. Only a handful of Growlers have been built since test production began five years ago. But with a shiny new Pentagon contract in hand, Boeing can now shift to producing upwards of 20 new planes per year as the U.S. Navy transitions from Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC ) -built EA-6B Prowlers to a new airborne electronic warfare platform.
What's it mean to investors?
News reports on the contract refer to it as a "$386 million" contract modification. But in fact, there's more at stake than that. You see, the U.S. Navy plans to buy 88 Growlers to replace its aging fleet of Prowlers. At approximately $73 million a pop, the contract promises to yield at least $6.4 billion for Boeing (to be further divvied out among subcontractors Northrop, Raytheon (NYSE: RTN ) and General Electric (NYSE: GE ) ).
It will take Boeing at least four years to fill out the Navy's wishlist, which should mean approximately $1.6 billion in new revenues for Boeing over each of the next four years. Analysts currently forecast just 6.9% long-term earnings growth for Boeing. If the company can maintain its profit margin on the new plane, that would net that company about an extra $160 million per year for the next four years, providing a healthy boost toward topping that 6.9% forecast. (And maybe more. Various reports suggest that India, Japan, and Australia may all be interested in buying export versions of Boeing's new bird. $6.4 billion may be only the ground floor for this aircraft's value.)
In other news
Boeing is not the only aerospace firm relying on Uncle Sam's wallet to keep the revenues flowing. On Monday we learned that Hawker Beechcraft -- a subsidiary of Canada's Onex and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) (!) -- has allied with Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT ) to bid on an Air Force contract seeking 100 new training aircraft. Hawker successfully landed a separate contract in cooperation with L-3 Communications (NYSE: LLL ) last year, pitching its King Air turboprop as a low-cost surveillance plane for the USAF.
Would it be great to see Boeing score a touchdown with KC-X or a successful Dreamliner? Sure it would. But meanwhile, Boeing knows, and Hawker knows, you still need to keep those smaller contracts rolling in. Keep moving the chains.