No, Mr. Gates is a clear talker and a straight shooter. And yesterday he hauled off and smacked Boeing
35 is greater than 18
In recent months, Boeing's been talking up a perceived problem with the handoff from every other U.S. fighter jet to Lockheed Martin's
Boeing's solution: Buy Boeing F/A-18s to fill the gap.
Settle down, Boeing
Think twice, says Gates. In fact, the worst-case scenario is that in 2018, we will have a temporary shortfall of about 100 carrier-based aircraft while awaiting deliveries of the necessary F-35s. And even that may not be so bad. As Gates points out, the fifth-generation F-35 is more capable than the fourth-gen fighters it replaces, and won't need to "fill the gap" on a one-to-one basis. Additionally, as unmanned aerial vehicles take over more and more of the duties of piloted aircraft, the supposed "shortfall" could dwindle to as few as 40 planes -- fewer than one-half of one aircraft carrier's fixed wing complement.
So ... so much for Boeing's main argument. But it isn't all bad news for Boeing. For one thing, archrivals EADS and Northrop Grumman
As a second consolation prize, Gates dispatched his aide-de-camp Admiral Mike Mullen to confirm the Navy's intention to purchase multiple Boeing EA-18G "Growlers." Over time, Growler revenues could rise to $6.4 billion in value, parceled out to Boeing and key subcontractors Raytheon
Last but not least, Gates held out hope that a long-awaited next-gen bomber aircraft is still in the works. Although the plane per se won't arrive before "the late '20s," development funds could begin flowing as soon as next year, surging to $4 billion over the next five years.
And great news for Boeing: Now that the F/A-18 is off the table, it'll have a whole lot more free time to work on the bomber.