Boeing's 6 Top War Machines

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- When Boeing ( BA) reports earnings on July 27, the focus, as usual, will center on the company's commercial airplanes division.

After all, commercial airplanes, visible at every major airport in the world, have created one of the world's best known and most successful companies.

But in fact, exactly half of the company is defense-oriented.

In 2010, for example, Boeing revenues totaled $64.3 billion, including $31.8 billion from commercial airplanes and $31.9 billion from defense, space and security. Earnings from operations totaled $5 billion, including $3 billion from commercial airplanes and $2.9 billion from defense, space and security.

While Boeing Commercial Airlines is based in Everett, Wash., Boeing Defense, Space and Security sits near St. Louis, formerly the headquarters of McDonnell Douglas, which merged with Boeing in 1997. The division has major operations in California and Washington as well as St. Louis.

Typically, the methodology of Boeing and other defense contractors is to develop products for the U.S. military, because the U.S. spends as much on defense as the entire rest of the world combined. Once those products are developed, they can be refined and marketed to international customers including -- in the case of the Chinook helicopter -- civilian customers.

Read on for Boeing's top six military products.

F-15

The F-15 is the principal fighter flown by the U.S. Air Force, which plans to fly the jet at least through 2035.

During the past three decades, Boeing has produced more than 1,600 F-15s.

The newest model is the F-15E Strike Eagle, which Boeing calls "the world's most capable multi-role strike fighter that is available today" due to its range, weapons load and ability to fly through obstacles.

The F-15E began test flights in January and is currently undergoing a 14-month, 110-sortie test flight program.

The F-15E has two turbofan engines, each generating approximately 29,000 pounds of thrust. It can travel up to twice the speed of sound and can carry 23,000 pounds of payload, including a variety of air-to-ground weapons with names like JDAM and SLAM-ER. (Really, this is how defense insiders talk.)

Besides the U.S., customers for the F-15 include Israel, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

One more fact, important in warfare: The F-15 has an air combat record of more than 104 victories and zero defeats, with particular success in Iraq and the Balkan conflict.

F18 Super Hornet

The F18 Super Hornet is a fighter plane developed for the Navy, and is built with takeoff and landing systems that enable it to be deployed from an aircraft carrier. It entered service in 1999, replacing its predecessor, Hornet. The Super Hornet is about 25% larger, with a longer range, more advanced mission systems, stealth capability and a larger payload.

An even newer version, called the Growler, has the capability to electronically jam enemy radar systems and is currently in use in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

So far, Boeing has delivered about 500 Super Hornets, including Growlers. Under a contract awarded in 2010, Boeing will deliver 66 Super Hornets and 58 Growlers to the Navy between 2012 and 2015.

The plane's thrust is 44,000 pounds, while its top speed is Mach 1.8 plus, slower than the 2.5 Mach speed for the F-15. The F18 has 11 weapons stations and can carry a mixed load of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons.

Both the F-15 and the F18 are made near St. Louis.

C-17

For years, Congress has debated whether to continue to purchase the venerable C-17 cargo plane.

The Obama administration considers the aircraft to be superfluous to the nation's defense. But for Boeing, the C-17 is critically important , with the cost for each plane ranging between $175 million and $230 million.

Since 1993, Boeing has delivered 211 C-17s to the Air Force, with 10 more on order. Today, most sales are international.

The House has included C-17 purchase in its 2012 defense budget, despite threats of a veto by President Obama and opposition from recently-retired defense secretary Robert Gates, who has called it a "pork barrel" project. The Senate has not yet acted.

The aircraft is built in Long Beach, Calif.

KC-46 Tanker

Like for the C-17, the lobbying effort for the KC-46 tanker has been intense.

In February, Boeing unexpectedly won the $35 billion contract to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force. The victory for the 767-based tanker came on Boeing's third try to win a completion against one based on the Airbus A330.

The first effort failed because of a scandal involving Boeing. The second time, the choice was a tanker built by Northrop Grumman ( NOC) and Airbus, but congressional auditors found flaws in the bidding process. Northrop Grumman subsequently withdrew from the bidding.

Despite the glee that surrounded it, Boeing's victory in winning the tanker contract may not be all that beneficial for the company. The company could lose up to $700 million in cost overruns, Bloomberg reported. The contract for the initial 14 tankers was for up to $4.9 billion, with the Air Force and Boeing expected to absorb cost overruns.

The tanker will be made in Puget Sound and modified in Wichita, Kan.

Apache

On the helicopter side, the AH-64D Apache is the most advanced multi-role combat helicopter for the U.S. Army and a growing number of international defense forces. The first prototype flew in 1975.

The Apache is an attack helicopter, intended for close-in troop support.

More than 1,700 Apaches have been delivered to customers around the world since the aircraft went into production. The U.S. Army has ordered more than 600 of them.

Armed forces in a total of 11 countries have ordered or selected the Apache. The first international delivery was to the Royal Netherlands Air Force in May 1998. Outside of the U.S., more than 300 new and re-manufactured Apaches have been delivered or are in production.

The Apache is made in Mesa, Ariz.

Chinook

The CH-47D Chinook helicopter was also developed for the army, but it is intended more for cargo and transport than for close-in troop support.

The Chinook has been in use by the army since 1962, and under a current modernization program, it will remain in the army fleet at least through the 2030s. Boeing said "it is conceivable that Chinooks will be Army Aviation assets for a century or more." The current army contract calls for 525 Chinooks.

Internationally, the Chinook has been delivered to more than 15 customers and has operated as both a military and civilian aircraft, often used for humanitarian missions such as earthquake relief in Haiti and tsunami response in Japan.

It is made in Ridley Township, Pa., near Philadelphia International Airport.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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