The decision to launch Boeing Defence UK at the start of 2008 highlighted the company's growing intentions to solidify its position in the UK military aerospace market. The newly structured organisation is aimed exclusively at growing its defence footprint in the UK's military aerospace sector.

A year on, we caught up with Boeing Defence UK managing director Mike Kurth to see how its new division was driving this vision forward.

Alex Hawkes: How has the creation of Boeing Defence UK altered the company's relationship with the UK aerospace industry?

Mike Kurth: The Boeing brand is of course clearly recognised in the UK market and has been for sometime, but the introduction of this new entity helps us communicate better with our primary customers and main decision makers.

“Boeing Defence UK is aimed exclusively at growing Boeing’s defence footprint in the UK’s military aerospace sector.”

The legal entity that is now known as Boeing Defence UK has been around since 1996 and was originally founded by The Boeing Company to primarily support the Brimstone programme here (a joint venture that produced the Brimstone anti-armour weapon). It therefore made sense to take all of Boeing's other various UK programmes and merge into a single wholly owned subsidiary

It means that I am now a single point of contact if there is an issue with any of the Boeing defence programmes. I report directly to the leadership of Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems in the US, therefore offering a streamlined path to a solution when there is a problem with one of our products in the UK.

AH: And how has the new entity particularly benefited the helicopter side of the business during 2008?

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MK: Naturally this has had a positive effect on our helicopter sales in the UK, where we have a great working relationship with the US-based reach-back elements of the aircraft – both in terms of the final product and its support.

AH: Even in light of the year's financial uncertainties?

MK: 2008 was, of course, a challenging fiscal environment, but in challenging fiscal environments there is always room for innovation. If you can demonstrate value for money over time, you will always be in a competitive position when the opportunities arise.

I think we have achieved, and in some cases exceeded, our targets for the year – particularly with the successful delivery of two C-17s. We have also been busy developing the Chinook mk3 reversion, which has involved close coordination with our team in Philadelphia and a number of other major suppliers. As always, we are working hard to ensure that we deliver whatever type of upgrades is required for various fleets.

AH: How has Boeing's established range of military helicopters, such as Chinook and Apache, evolved in the UK through the course of the year?

MK: The UK defence market is the second largest in the world and we play a significant part in that market – whether it is through rotary craft such as the Chinook range or our more strategic offerings like the C-17.

The increase in capability and availability of the Chinook range in the UK has been a real success story for us in particular. We are also continuing to develop the capability of the Apache range and again will continue upgrading and supporting all our programmes according to customer requirements.

“The UK defence market is the second largest in the world, and Boeing plays a significant part in that market.”

We worked closely with the MoD and our partners on various upgrades, most notably this year on the successful delivery of the first two Apache AH mk1s equipped with new sighting and targeting systems. This included M-TADS / PNVS (modernised target acquisition designation sight / pilot night vision sensor) along with TEDAC (TADS electronic display and control) which provides Apache AH mk1 crews with greater situational awareness and combative effectiveness. The M-TADS contract was an
excellent example of industry partnership – other companies involved included AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin – working hand in hand with the MoD.

AH: So a strong working relationship with the MoD has proved to be important?

MK: We have a very good working relationship with the MoD, particularly due to our close collaboration with their air support units. We both engage in an annual mutual rating report, whereby we evaluate one another's performance throughout that year. I met recently with Tim Rowntree, director-general air support, to discuss all our programmes and our overall working relationship.

AH: Can you think of any particular examples during the year, when that relationship has been particularly fruitful?

MK: We have experienced some record maintenance turnaround times this year for badly damaged aircraft in Afghanistan. We have been able to induct the damaged aircraft into our maintenance line at Gosport in Hampshire and turn them around in about a third of the time it normally takes to do such repairs.

This could not have happened without our strong relationship with the MoD and various other partners. The increase is also a result of our present engineering resources and the experiences our team have accumulated with the US army. We have placed a huge focus on driving velocity into our repair cycle, which has helped us turn around such major structural damage in record time.