Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen tells us that Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT ) F-35 fighter jet will probably be the last manned fighter jet the U.S. ever builds … but he didn't say anything about the bombers … and that's great news for Boeing (NYSE: BA ) .
Last week, we discussed Boeing's just-in-time landing of a $5.3 billion order for F-18 fighter jets -- big news at the time, but a contract that pales next to the monster deal Boeing just inked to upgrade the Air Force's fleet of B-52 bombers. Spread over an eight-year timespan, the $11.9 billion deal would will account for just 2.3% of Boeing's annual revenue stream -- about $1.5 billion per year. But you know what they say: A billion-and-a-half here, a billion-and-a-half there…)
More significant than the contract win per se is what it bodes for future defense work at Boeing, and elsewhere. As you may recall, the Air Force has been pondering the fate of the strategic bomber program for some months now. Both Boeing and Lockheed both want to build a successor to the B-2 stealth bomber, currently Northrop Grumman's (NYSE: NOC ) baby. There's also talk of an FB-22 Strike Raptor (probably dead, now that the base F-22 Raptor has been canceled), and an even more futuristic "2037 Bomber."
And of course, Pentagon halls are still buzzing over the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments' suggestion last year that if we could get ourselves one really good long-range bomber, supplemented with a few bargain-priced UAVs from Textron (NYSE: TXT ) or Honeywell (NYSE: HON ) , Boeing or General Atomics, we might not need to buy quite so many obsolete manned fighter jets in the first place. Then again, if the Pentagon is thinking a mere update of the B-52 is all it needs, all these other theories could go out the window -- and with them, a potential $15+ billion in revenues needed to develop a new strategic bomber.
Hmm. With that prospect in mind, I'm not sure Boeing's $11.9 billion B-52 deal is such good news after all.
The softer side of Boeing
In less militaristic Boeing news, Boeing announced yesterday that it's finalized terms of a 60-jet sale to the recently established "Air Lease Corporation," a creation of AIG (NYSE: AIG ) ILFC alum Steven Udvar-Hazy. ALC will purchase 54 Next-Gen Boeing 737-800s straight up, and take an option on an additional half-dozen planes. Total value at list price: Nearly $4.9 billion.
A billion-and-a-half here, four-point-nine bills there -- now we're talking real money.