Textron now a stronger defense-work contender

07/27/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

The merger of Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft into Textron Aviation will give the combined company an advantage in its military business, experts say.

It provides Textron with a broader portfolio of military products, making it a stronger contender for defense business.

Before Textron bought Beechcraft Corp., in March, neither company was a “full-up defense company,” said Russ Bartlett, president of Beechcraft Defense Co., a part of Textron Aviation. Now, “you have an interesting and robust defense portfolio.”

Wayne Plucker, an aerospace and defense analyst for Frost & Sullivan, agrees.

A bigger defense footprint gets people’s attention, he said.

“It says these people understand defense,” Plucker said. “Having a broader suite makes them someone more worth considering.”

It also will help get the company in front of potential customers – “unlike someone who’s hawking a single line of products,” he said.

Now, “this is someone who can go to a MOD (Military of Defense) somewhere in the world and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this,’ ” Plucker said. “ ‘That’s a little too pricey? What you think of this offering that’s close to that in nature?’ That may give them a good sales pitch if you will – the fact that they can kind of paint across the spectrum.”

Earlier this month, Textron Aviation displayed Beechcraft T-6 and AT-6 aircraft and Cessna special mission aircraft – along with Textron AirLand’s new Scorpion military tactical jet – in one place at the Farnborough International Airshow outside London. It’s the first time all were displayed together at a major international show.

They were on exhibit next to helicopters from Textron’s Bell Helicopter division. In addition, Textron, through its Textron Systems division, offers smart weapons, surveillance systems and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The company’s long background in defense will help win Scorpion sales, Textron CEO Scott Donnelly said during the Farnborough Airshow.

Already, “we have relationships with air forces around the world,” Donnelly said.

Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft Defense business focuses on its T-6 single-engine turboprop trainer and its AT-6 light attack version. It’s also responsible for marketing and sales of the new Scorpion tactical military jet.

Another arm of Textron Aviation concentrates on King Air special mission aircraft.

While separate, the segments work together, the company said.

Beechcraft has been trying to secure a launch customer for its AT-6, Bartlett said. He expects that to occur before the end of the year.

There are currently three “mature pursuits” of customers for the AT-6, built at Beechcraft’s site in east Wichita.

A launch customer has taken longer than expected.

The company works with customers on their timelines, which can be influenced by a number of factors, such as world events, events within their nations and budget cycles, the company said.

With all the uncertainty in the world today, the timing is good, however, Bartlett said.

“We’re anxious to get it to market,” he said.

Beechcraft has also been working to secure additional orders for its T-6 primary trainer as deliveries for trainers under the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System, or JPATS, comes to an end in two years.

The JPATS program provides primary trainers for the United States Air Force and Navy. The contract ends in September 2016.

The T-6 replaces the Navy’s T-34 fleet used for training pilots. About two-thirds of the fleet has been replaced so far, Bartlett said.

In late May, the company signed its 20th and final contract with the Air Force under the JPATS program.

The order was for 29 T-6s valued at $171 million. Deliveries begin in 2015.

When the JPATS program comes to an end, Beechcraft will have delivered 751 T-6s under the JPATS program since deliveries began in 2000.

Others have purchased the trainers, such as the Hellenic Air Force of Greece, the Israeli Air Force, the Iraqi Air Force, the Royal Moroccan Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Mexican Air Force and Mexican Navy.

The first two of 11 T-6C aircraft on order by the Royal New Zealand Air Force are completed and will arrive in New Zealand in August.

The other nine aircraft have started on the production line and are ahead of schedule, the company said. They will be delivered by the second quarter of 2015.

In addition to the trainers, the contract includes spare parts, training, logistics and maintenance support.

Besides the order from New Zealand, Beechcraft is currently working to secure T-6 orders from the United Kingdom and Australia.

Beechcraft Defense has partnered with Affinity, a team involving Ebit Systems and KBR, for an initial contract for 11 T-6 trainers.

It’s also partnered with BAE Systems Australia to offer the T-6 in, if successful, an initial order for up to 48 planes.

On the special mission front, the market is growing, Textron Aviation said. The company offers King Airs configured for special mission purposes.

“We have seen a significant growth in special mission activity around the globe and anticipate this market will continue to grow across our aircraft platforms,” Dan Keady, Textron Aviation vice president of special missions said in a statement.

Textron Aviation said this month that it’s now delivered the first of four King Air 350ER turboprops to the Mexican Navy.

The remaining three will be delivered by the second quarter of 2015. The company will provide support for the airplanes as well.

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