Friday, 17 July 2015

Interview: Shelly Lavender, President of Boeing Military Aircraft

Boeing Military Aircraft’s India focus strong
By Sangeeta Saxena
Paris. During World War I Boeing was at the fore of manufacturing some of the most iconic military aircraft of the 20th century. A century later this military aviation leader despite an expanded empire, is surging ahead to create markets where none exist and strengthen their footprint where one exists.
Shelley Lavender, president of Boeing Military Aircraft, a business unit of Defense, Space & Security, which operates three divisions Mobility, Surveillance and Engagement; Global Strike; and Vertical Lift, while addressing an India media round table at the Paris Air Show expressed her satisfaction at Boeing’s long standing relationship with India and felt that the Defence Business is benefiting by the booming commercial business in India.  Shelley has replaced  Chris Chadwick as the leader of Boeing Military Aircraft.

Being questioned on the possibility of conceding to the Indian request of three more C17s,   Jeffery Kohler, vice president, international business development, stated that Boeing had kept the Indian government and the Indian Air Force in picture about the impending closure of its C-17 production line in Long Beach, California. The 26-year-old factory is scheduled to close this summer and he explained  that it will not be cost effective to keep the line going. Boeing would be not able to consider India’s request for three additional C-17, he said.
Competing in an environment where cost, quality, capability and value are all critical to both new business growth and in maintaining existing contracts the  'BMA 2020' strategic plan to position Boeing’s military aircraft business for growth over the next decade will depend very much on the state of relations between India and the US through the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). Shelly felt that negotiations on DTTI are taking place at a faster pace since Narendra Modi government came to power.

It's about putting the right leaders in the right places who can drive business performance and Shelly is confident of the ‘Make in India’ initiative, which promises to expand the business to deliver essential capabilities at prices customers are willing to pay and, in doing so create an opportunity.
Both Shelly and Jeff were optimistic of the Indian Apache and Chinook helicopter deals closing very soon and feel that the Government of India is entitled to take its time to work out the final nitty gritties.  An approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), has now been initiated and that “once accorded, the contracts would be signed.” Notably, all contracts above `1,000 crore in value (approx $165 million at current exchange rate) have to be approved by the CCS, which is headed by the Prime Minister and includes Ministers of Finance, Defence, External Affairs and Home. Procedurally, once the Ministry of Defence (MoD) approves a proposal for forwarding the case to CCS, it has to be seen and signed by the Defence Minister, and then go to the Finance Ministry where likewise, the Finance Minister has to accord his signatures. Any observations by the Finance Ministry are generally addressed by the MoD before the case is put up to the CCS.
When asked about partnership development both within industry and with their customers Shelly stated that the company needs to bring to its customers best-of-industry solutions to satisfy their needs, and it can be done only through strong industry collaboration. “We already have some strong partnerships in  India and would like to strengthen them further. Meanwhile we will also look towards identifying new partners. It will be the need of the hour keeping Prime Minister Modi’s  Make In India campaign.
The C-17 final assembly facility will close after the last production aircraft fly away. There are no plans for continued production in the facility. Other buildings and businesses remain in Long Beach including employees who support the C-17 Globemaster Integrated Sustainment Program, Commercial Aviation Services and support functions.
 “Our international C-17 customers have logged more than 3 million flight hours in the C-17 supporting military, humanitarian and disaster relief missions; the C-17 has been at the forefront supporting humanitarian aid delivery following every major natural disaster during the last two decades,” she said.

 Although production of the C-17 is ending, the C-17 mission continues with Boeing providing support, sustainment and modifications for the global fleet for years to come.The C-17 Globemaster III will continue to be the mainstay airlifter for the U.S. Air Force and international operators for many years.
 The C-17 production program may be ending, but Boeing will continue to partner with the U.S. Air Force and all of its global C-17 Globemaster III customers to provide world-class sustainment of the airlifters wherever they are operated for years to come. The C-17 Globemaster III Integrated Sustainment Program uses the concept of performance-based logistics where customers pay for aircraft readiness, not specific parts or services.
 C-17 GISP has become a model for the future of sustainment and has sustained average mission readiness rates of more than 85 percent for the past 10 years for global C-17 fleet customers. That has been achieved by providing access to an extensive support network for worldwide parts availability.
 The sustainment program supports C-17s in the fleets of the U.S. Air Force, and international customers the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and the Strategic Airlift Capability in Papa, Hungary.  Boeing has supported the entire C-17 fleet since the first Globemaster III was produced and made its home with the U.S. Air Force in Charleston in 1993.
Passionate about expanding the Indian market, she ‘is excited about her maiden visit to India this year. 
PS. And as I was uploading the story on the blog I realized that Shelly was in India already and has  signed a framework agreement to collaborate in aerospace and defense manufacturing and potential integrated systems development opportunities, including unmanned aerial vehicles with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL).  The companies intend to access markets jointly for products and platforms developed together by Boeing and TASL.

 The agreement was signed between Shelley Lavender and Sukaran Singh, managing director and chief executive officer of TASL.TASL is already on contract to manufacture aerostructures for Boeing’s CH-47 Chinook and AH-6i helicopters. “This agreement with TASL is significant because it demonstrates Boeing’s commitment to expanding its aerospace manufacturing footprint in India,” Lavender said.


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