When the military gets its call to deploy, it needs to be there yesterday. Through a systems approach, Boeing is poised to become the world's leader in helping militaries rapidly move troops and gear to their destinations.
BY DARYL STEPHENSON
The military just can't sit still. It's an enterprise that's always on the move.
And the pace is quickening.
Take the U.S. military: "At every moment of every day, around the globe, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, merchant mariners, civilians, contractors and commercial partners are accomplishing a wide array of missionsand doing so in an outstanding fashion," said Air Force Gen. John Handy, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) which handles strategic air, land and sea transportation for all U.S. services.
Averaging 1,900 air missions a week, "the command is always in motion," Handy said. "On any given day, the command can be found providing critical strategic transportation to a host of U.S. and international agencies. This is a phenomenal undertaking, yet it is also a clear reality of today's global environment."
A decade ago, USTRANSCOM logisticians would have planned a deployment of three to six months to get enough people and equipment into a theater to effectively mount a major military operation. Now, they expect to do the same thing in a one month deployment. In the decades ahead, such deployments could be as short as a few weeks or days.
"The very thought that we could wait until a month before to deploy for a possible war is simply astonishing," said Howard Chambers, Boeing vice president and general manager for Airlift and Tanker Programs. "It's a real testament to the U.S. Transportation Command's tenet of rapid global mobility."
What makes USTRANSCOM better able to move people and things faster than ever before? Certainly, it's better airlift aircraftlike the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, which the Air Force has made full use of to the tune of nearly 500,000 flight hours in eight years of fleet operation, and which also is in service with the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force.
But it's rapidly becoming much more than that. Today, true mobility depends on a systems approach that blends modern information and communications technologies with highly capable platforms to ensure that everyone and everything get to the right place at the right time.
It's having versatile, reliable aircraft, both new and old, with up-to-date avionics and communications systems that can operate effectively in a global network. And it's having peopleair crews, loaders, refueling crews and maintainers who have at their fingertips information that's as current and complete as that which the planner in the Pentagon or the battlefield commander is looking at.
Boeing wants to position itself as the world's lead integrator of mobility and other military systemsboth those it builds and those other companies build, according to Chairman and CEO Phil Condit.
An effective network, he said, "has to tie things togetherstrike airplanes, unmanned aerial vehicles, advanced warning and control system aircraft, transports, tankers and satellitesin intelligent ways. And we're the only company that can do all that. It doesn't mean we have to build the whole thing. But we do have to understand it," Condit said.
Boeing is "going to have an advantage [in that area] because we'll be doing systems integration as opposed to just building pieces of the whole," Condit asserts. "Our opportunities will come out of developing and using the tools that enable us to build networks and tie platforms into those networks."
The Boeing systems approach to mobility is likely to have a dramatic impact in the years ahead, Condit said. "Our customer has a huge task, which is how to get all the things you need to get where you need to get them. You don't want to spend six months transporting people and equipment and getting ready to do something. You want to be able to move and respond quickly. And that has implications for tankers, transports, fighters, bombers, or rotorcraft like the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey.
"If you know where everything is and if you're tied into the network, you can do amazing things," Condit said.
The aerospace industry has taken notice of the growing mobility needs of the U.S. Defense Department and world militaries. Boeing, for one, has identified mobility as one of the seven key market segments for its newly formed Integrated Defense Systems business unit. Mobility makes up 16 percent of the $24 billion in business IDS programs generate.
And looking to the future, Boeing Phantom Works has technology and concept exploration programs such as the Advanced Theater Transport, the Blended Wing Body and the Pelican military transport that offer innovative solutions to USTRANSCOM's needs for rapid airlift, aerial refueling and full integration into a battlefield network.
This portfolio of current and future mobility systems "makes Boeing the market leader in mobility today," said George Muellner, Boeing senior vice president for Air Force Systems and leader of the IDS Strategic Business Council for Mobility. "Our challenge is to grow that market leadership over the long term."
The IDS Mobility Council has the job of ensuring "that we make the right strategic choices so that Boeing remains the world's leading provider of mobility products for decades to come," Muellner said. Many of the strategies that Boeing will use to maintain market leadership in mobility revolve around the concept of interoperability within a global network.
Muellner said that rapid developments in information and communications technologies are making it possible to exploit 'open systems' information architectures and information-wrapping technologies. These technologies are making systems upgrades more affordable and are enabling operational interoperability among the U.S. military services and even with NATO's and different nations' military forces, at the machine level.
That is a major factor behind the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program that Boeing is performing on aging Lockheed-built U.S. Air Force C-130 transports. And it means that today's C-17 and 767 Tanker Transport aircraft, which have the latest avionics and communications technologies designed in, can be upgraded affordably in future years as new technologies become available.
The result is that "every military platform within a force can become just about as capable as the most capable element in the overall force," Muellner said. "The network becomes a powerful force multiplier."
The overall Boeing IDS strategy for the Mobility market, as it is with other market segments, is to combine communications and knowledge management expertise from Boeing's former Space and Communications business unit with platform knowledge from the company's former Military Aircraft and Missile Systems organization to offer integrated solutions that make mobility systems more effective.
In addition to the C-17 military transport, Boeing's portfolio of mobility systems includes derivatives of its commercial airplanes (such as the 767 Tanker Transport, the C-40A military transport, the C-40B executive transport and the C-32 executive transport) and rotorcraft (updated versions of the CH-47 Chinook and the V-22 Osprey, which is built in partnership with Bell Helicopter Textron).
Boeing is under contract to build 180 C-17s through 2008. Gen. Handy has said USTRANSCOM needs at least 222 C-17s to meet its long-term mobility requirements. "The C-17 is remarkable in its capability," he said.
The Globemaster has been the featured heavy lifter for Operation Enduring Freedom, flying 47 percent of all airlift missions in that theater. A combined Boeing, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Defense Logistics Agency aerospace support team, under a contract known as Flexible Sustainment, is working toward ensuring the C-17 has the best supportability metrics of any airlift aircraft in the world.
Next year, U.S. Air National Guard crews will join Air Force and Reserve crews as C-17 operators. The U. K. Royal Air Force operates four C-17s, and Boeing is expecting additional international customers. C-17s soon will fill the Air Force special operations airlift mission that Lockheed C-141s now perform.
The U.S. Air Force is considering the lease of 100 Boeing 767 Tanker Transports to replace aging tankers that are an average of 42 years old. The Boeing lease proposal, at about $17 billion, enables the Air Force to get the new tankers five years earlier than traditional government procurement and save more than $5 billion in maintenance and upgrade costs by retiring the oldest tankers.
Sized for optimum fuel offload and range, the 767 Tanker Transport provides enhanced mission capability and flexibility, the Boeing-developed boom-and-receptacle and hose-and-drogue aerial refueling systems, and full European Union and NATO interoperability compared with current tankers.
The C-40A is a 737-700 convertible/ combi aircraft for the U.S. Navy that will replace Douglas C-9 airlift transports in service since the early 1970s. C-40As will be used for the Navy Unique Fleet Essential Airlift mission to transport passengers and cargo around the world. The aircraft will be certified to operate in three configurations: all-passenger, all-cargo or a combination. The Navy has ordered six C-40As to begin replacing its fleet of 29 C-9B aircraft.
The C-40B is a modified Boeing Business Jet that provides high-performance, flexible and economical airlift support for senior U.S. military commanders, senior government leadership and team travel. Boeing is under contract to deliver four C-40Bs to the Air Force. They are equipped with the Connexion by Boeing system to provide secure in-flight broadband connectivity for enhanced communications, productivity and security.
The C-32A is a specially configured Boeing 757-200 for the U.S. Air Force. The aircraft provides safe, reliable worldwide airlift for the vice president, cabinet members and other U.S. government officials. Four C-32As are currently in service.
At Boeing Rotorcraft Systems, the top priority "is to meet the demands of the future warfighter," said Pat Shanahan, Boeing vice president and general manager, Rotorcraft Systems. "Whether it's through upgrading existing aircraft or exploring the outer limits of our imaginations, we are committed to producing the best solutions possible."
The CH-47 Chinook, the U.S. Army's prime mover since the early 1960s, and the V-22 Osprey, the Marine Corps' troop transport of the future, are integral parts of the Boeing IDS mobility support plan.
Through six model designations, numerous systems upgrades and thousands of missions, the Chinook has helped shape the outcome of multiple conflicts, from Vietnam to Operation Enduring Freedom. Thanks to the most recent re-modernization program, the Chinook's service life is estimated to last at least another 30 years.
"Our plans to upgrade more than 300 Chinooks will help U.S. Army aviation move towards its modernization goals," Shanahan said. "The Chinook provides an effective solution to the Army's heavy-lift rotorcraft and mobility needs. It addresses the interoperability issues facing today's Army while preparing for the operational challenges of the future." Chinooks also are in the fleets of the U.S. Army Reserve, National Guard and several international customers.
Although not yet operational, the tiltrotor V-22's unique capabilities offer the Marine Corps, Special Operations Command and other users unprecedented mobility advantages. Its ability to take off and land like a helicopter, and reconfigure to cruise at turboprop aircraft speeds, will allow it to move troops into and, as importantly, out of danger zones faster than comparable aircraft.
Currently the V-22 is undergoing a rigorous flight-test program at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.
Under another IDS market segment known as sustainment, Boeing offers modifications and upgrades, maintenance, spares and technical data, and lifecycle customer support programs that keep USTRANSCOM aircraft flying, increase their flexibility and give them the ability to "plug and play" in a global network. A notable example is the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program, in which Boeing is under a $4 billion contract to upgrade about 500 U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft with new digital flight deck displays, radar, communications systems, a flight-management system and air-data computers.
Overall, Boeing is doing what it takes to stay ahead of its customers' needs. And with military customers constantly on the move and needing to move faster every day, Boeing's systems approach to mobility can help militaries quickly get to where they need to go.
Additional reporting by Rick Fuller, Rick Sanford and Doug Holmes
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