First, the good news. Even though the recent F-35 fire and subsequent fleet grounding came at a bad time, it likely will be brief. Since the aircraft has accumulated more than 3,000 flights and 5,000 flight hours, the problem is highly unlikely to be related to a serious design flaw. As of late last week, it appeared to be the result of "excessive rubbing" of engine blades on the powerplant cowling.
Company profitability has improved dramatically. Profit margins are now high and continuing to increase. The goal now is to make the company more of a systems integrator in areas such as unmanned aerial vehicles rather than a supplier of individual subsystems. Debt reduction has taken precedence over acquisitions although the company has been very active in making small, niche acquisitions in cyber security.
There is great irony to all the fuss during the past few months about the possibility that the Obama administration might block the continued sales of Russian RD-180 liquid-fuel engines to United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver, Colorado, as a way of punishing Russia for its government's annexation of the Crimea and ongoing meddling in eastern Ukraine.
High-end business jets are a strong market. General Dynamics' first-quarter results, announced last month, show the continued evolution of the company from an almost pure-play defense prime to a company deriving nearly half (45%) of its earnings from Gulfstream Aerospace and Jet Aviation, two units that focus on manufacturing, completing, and supporting high-end ($26 million-plus) jets.
Cemeteries are sad; sadder still is a large field of unmarked graves. After this year's Berlin Air Show (ILA), my Teal colleagues Bill Storey, Joel Johnson, Phil Finnegan and I all trundled off on a road trip to see battlefields in Eastern Germany and Poland. Thanks to Bill's borderline obsessive attention to topographical detail, we walked on pretty fields where, in 1945, tens of thousands of bodies fell along the Kustrin Highway, the Third Reich's last stand.
The CAMM effort is further evidence of the collapse of multi-national European missile efforts under MBDA. In theory, the British FLAADS requirement could be satisfied by MICA-VL which is basically in the same niche as FLAADS. Instead, the British side of MBDA is engaging in an entirely separate effort from the French or Germans to satisfy domestic needs and to create an attractive export product to re-place the past generation of Rapier/Seawolf.
The National Aeronautic Association Collier Trophy Committee is a great place to see present-day glimpses of our industry's future, and this year I was privileged to serve on it for a third time. There were two finalists, Northrop Grumman's X-47B (the winner) and Pratt & Whitney's PurePower Geared Turbofan (GTF) engine, which superbly illustrated two radically different aspects of our future.
US Court of Federal Claims Judge Susan Braden's injunction on Wednesday prohibiting United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver, Colorado, from procuring more RD-180 liquid-fuel engines from NPO Energomash (through the US-Russian joint venture RD AMROSS) could have much broader implications for the United States than first meets the eye.