Boeing Has a Secret Weapon

Actually, it has dozens of them -- and they'll keep its defense business humming for years.

Jan 19, 2014 at 8:00AM

Just precisely how doomed is Boeing's (NYSE:BA) defense business?

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Boeing's uber-popular F/A-18 Super Hornet. But is it losing a game of red light, green light? Source: Wikimedia Commons

A couple weeks back, I penned a little article posing the question: Will Boeing get kicked out of the defense business by 2016? The question focused on how, around the globe, Boeing has been losing contest after contest to sell fighter jets to everyone from Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), maker of the ultra-high-tech F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, to Saab -- which builds a bargain basement jet buggy called the Gripen, and just stole Boeing's lunch money down in Brazil.

Given the fanaticism of some Boeing backers, you can imagine that this question was somewhat controversial. What you may not have noticed, however... is that it is a trick question.

Surprise! No, Boeing is not going away
Of course Boeing is not getting kicked out of the defense business entirely. Right now, as of this moment, Boeing owns two of the top three fighter jet franchises on the planet, with its F-18 Hornet and F-15 Eagle fighter jets ranked Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, on the list of the top 10 most popular fighter jets in the world. Even if Boeing never sells another fighter jet to anyone, anywhere, ever again, the company stands to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars over the coming decades -- simply from maintaining, upgrading, and servicing the warplanes it's already sold.

And that's not all. Over the course of all of 2013, Boeing only actually delivered 14 F-15 Eagles, and about 48 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter bombers and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare birds, combined. These two planes may be Boeing's marquee products in the defense sphere. But judging from published prices, they could only possibly have generated about $5.3 billion in revenue for Boeing -- max. That's less than one-third of the $16.4 billion in sales that Boeing's military aircraft division books annually, and an even smaller fraction of Boeing's overall defense, space, and security business.

So where does Boeing get the rest of its money? In a worst-case scenario where Boeing's fighter jet-business flies off into the sunset, what will Boeing have left? Take a click-tour of the slideshow below, and we'll show you some of Boeing's most popular -- and profitable -- non-fighter-jet weapons systems. And make sure to check out our special free report at the end.

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