* Remark follows Seoul reopening fighter bidding
* Says F-15 line has life and opportunity ahead
* Company contained effects of partial U.S. shutdown
By Randall Palmer
OTTAWA, Oct 17 Boeing Co is still very
much engaged with South Korea over the possible sale of F-15
fighter jets, despite Seoul's move last month to restart a
multibillion-dollar tender process, a senior Boeing executive
told Reuters on Thursday.
The company also said the partial U.S. government shutdown
would have had more significant ramifications if it had lasted
longer, but saw no long-term effect from the 16-day hiatus in
operations that ended overnight.
"We were able to contain it pretty well over the last two
weeks," said Dennis Muilenburg, who heads Boeing's defense unit.
The F-15 had been poised to win the South Korean tender, but
Seoul pulled the plug after former military top brass and ruling
party lawmakers criticized the plane for lacking stealth
"What they decided to do was to delay and take another look,
so we're still very much engaged there with the F-15. That
competition has been delayed and restructured but it's not
over," Muilenburg said.
Nonetheless, Lockheed Martin's F-35A, previously
considered too expensive, is now seen in South Korea as a likely
candidate after the defense ministry singled out a
fifth-generation fighter as the preferred option.
Canada also is trying to decide whether to go for Lockheed's
F-35 or one of four competitors, including Boeing's F-18 Super
In contrast to South Korea, Canada had at first expressed a
preference for the Lockheed Martin plane because of its advanced
But after a furor over its cost and the fact that the
government had not tendered for it, Canada has reached out to
Boeing and other foreign aircraft manufacturers.
In a speech to an aerospace and defense conference in
Ottawa, Muilenburg took issue with characterizing the F-35 as a
next-generation plane, saying Boeing is constantly adding new
technology, "not just every generation."
He also said governments should demand certainty in cost and
scheduling, noting that 600 F-18s had been delivered around the
world, each on cost and on time or ahead of schedule. He said a
Super Hornet would cost half as much per flight hour as an F-35.
Lockheed Martin officials were not immediately available to
South Korea's decision to reopen bidding for the fighter-jet
contract signals a wider problem for Boeing - that revenue from
the F-15, its most profitable but aging military aircraft, is
But Muilenburg told Reuters the F-15 line remained very
"We have 84 new builds that we're building for Saudi Arabia,
so that line is full through 2018, 2019, time frame. We have
F-15 users around the world. We're continuing to upgrade, modify
the jets for the U.S. Air Force as well," he said, "so that line
has a lot of life and a lot of opportunity ahead of it yet."