Boeing would be ‘thrilled’ with role on new UK fighter-defence CEO

FILE PHOTO: Britain's defence minister, Gavin Wiliamson (UNSEEN), unveiled a model of a new jet fighter, called 'Tempest' at the Farnborough Airshow, in Farnborough, Britain July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

FARNBOROUGH, England (Reuters) – Boeing Co , the world’s largest planemaker, would be “thrilled” to participate in a new British fighter jet programme, the company’s defence chief said, although she said Britain still needed to clarify details about the project.

Leanne Caret, chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, told Reuters in an interview at the Farnborough Airshow this week that Boeing was watching the situation but that it was premature to make more definitive statements.

“They are still going through own defence reviews and understanding where they’re going,” she said.

“If there is an opportunity where the Boeing Company can participate and play, we will be absolutely honoured and thrilled to be part of that journey,” she added.

Britain this week unveiled its plans to build a stealthy new future fighter jet called Tempest, launching a rival to the Franco-German programme first unveiled in the summer of 2017.

Dassault Aviation and Airbus are leading the Franco-German programme, while the British project will be run by BAE Systems , Italy’s Leonardo , engine maker Rolls Royce , and missile maker MBDA.

It remains unclear whether the two projects could merge after Britain’s exit from the European Union, or whether Britain will forge new alliances, perhaps with Sweden’s Saab , maker of the Gripen fighter jet.

It may also look to Boeing , which recently teamed with Brazil’s Embraer and has close ties to Saab, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president at Teal Group.

Teaming up with BAE, Saab and possibly Embraer on a new fighter would provide a serious counterweight to the Franco-German project, which has not yet awarded initial study contracts to Airbus and Dassault.

It would also offer Boeing, which builds F/A-18E/F and F-15 fighters, a chance to get back into a new fighter development programme after losing out to Lockheed Martin on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter contract in 2001.

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