Update 5/14/20 at 10:55 AM EST: After publication, a Boeing spokesperson clarified that the company recognizes that while international interest remains strong, there are challenges from the COVID 19 pandemic for the Apache program, and that the company is monitoring it daily with the suppliers and customer to address potential impacts to schedule deliveries. The original story appears below.
WASHINGTON — The COVID-19 pandemic has not had an impact on the production and delivery of Apache helicopters for international customers, but Boeing is closely watching the international supply chain for signs of slowdown, a company official said Tuesday.
The coronavirus impact going forward is difficult to predict, said T.J. Jamison, Boeing’s director of vertical lift international sales. Still, he expressed a belief that the company should be able to stay on track with its plans to produce more than 100 Apache models in 2020.
While production on the CH-47 Chinook and V-22 Osprey in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area was stopped for two weeks in April, the Mesa, Arizona, Boeing plant that produces the Apache never had to stop work. However, there have been a number of individuals working remotely, primarily from the sales team; it will likely be a month or more before they are all back working at their desks, Jamison said.
Some international customers have signaled that “we might need a potential slowdown in operations. But not one has said: ‘Hey, we need to cancel these orders because of the COVID-19 issue,’ ” Jamison said. “There have been no cancellations, and there have been no significant requests for delay.”
However, just like the Pentagon, the company is closely watching the international supply chain. For the Apache, that includes fuselage production in Hydrabad, India (managed by Tata) and in Sacheon, South Korea (managed by Korea Aerospace Industries).
Boeing’s decision to maintain two suppliers for that production has “served us very well” in the current situation, Jamison said, adding that while India has been hit hard by COVID-19 and is undergoing government-mandated shutdowns, the Korea Aerospace Industries plant is able to keep production on track.
“We really do not like to have a single point of failure with any of our components that we receive through the supply chain,” he said. “There hasn’t been a dramatic impact to the supply chain today. Again, I don’t have that crystal ball and I can’t tell you how this pandemic is going to play out. But right now, there hasn’t been a dramatic impact.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.