Boeing-Spirit acquisition may risk US aerial defence supply chain

The US defence community expressed fear that they will lose a critical point of the air systems supply chain should Boeing subsume Spirit Aerosystems for its commercial enterprise.

John Hill May 16 2024

Since Spirit AeroSystems confirmed it began discussing the prospect of Boeing acquiring the company in March 2024, the potential deal has haunted US defence and government circles.

While an agreement still hangs in the balance, US politicians are watching closely to see whether the acquisition will have an adverse reaction on the defence capabilities that Spirit offers as a critical supplier in the the supply chains for military aerial systems.

As both a defence and commercial company, Spirit supports a range of programmes including the B-21 Raider strategic bomber, the Bell V-280 tiltrotor aircraft, the CH-53K King Stallion transport helicopter as well as numerous Bombardier business jets.

Even though Boeing is a notable aerial systems contractor in its own right within the US defence industrial ecosystem, some observers are still weighing the prospect that it intends to leverage Spirit largely for its commercial enterprise.

The company also has an international presence, having announced the establishment of a design centre in Malaysia according to a statement at the end of February on the opening day of the Singapore Air Show. It is said that Spirit's Malaysian engineering team is already a significant player in the design of commercial aircraft, including the A350XWB section 15 freighter, A350XWB ultra long range and a key partner to A220 wing programme.

The Senator for Kansas, Jerry Moran, in a Senate Defense Appropriations Committee hearing on 15 March 2024, inquired into the situation of the Wichita-based supplier, which he said employs 13,000 workers from his state.

US Senator for Kansas Jerry Moran voicing concern about the loss of the defence capabilities of Spirit Aerosystems should Boeing successfully acquire the Wichita-based company. Credit: US Senate Defense Appropriations Committee.

“Spirit Aerosystems, [a] tier one supplier, supports [many] programmes… it [has a] wide array… and in my view the Defense Department ought to be at least encouraging me and others, if not in addition to the [government], to make sure that if there is a merger [with Boeing], the defence capabilities of Spirit [are] not somehow lost in the process,” he warned.

“My assumption is that Boeing is almost exclusively interested in this for commercial manufacturing, and yet if [there is an] absence of Spirit Aerosystems [then] we lose a lot of defence capabilties.

“I have visited with nearly four or five of the CEOs whose companies do work with Spirit, and the general feeling is, ‘I don’t know where else we would go in the absence of Spirit, doing what it does today.’

Without any hesitation, the Under Secretary for Defense Acquisition and Sustainment, Dr. William LaPlante, assured Moran and the committee that “We will absolutely weigh in,” if such an event transpires.

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