Some of Boeing's programs have problems

Boeing has struggled with some of its big defense, space and technology projects in addition to some jetliners like the 787.

"They've had a lot of setbacks in their military business," says Phil Finnegan, a defense aerospace analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va. "Several years ago, it looked like they were in a great position. They had won a lot of contracts — a lot of high-profile, cutting-edge technology was involved.

"But one by one, the programs have faced problems. There've been a lot of cutbacks and cancellations. Some can be blamed on Boeing's own mistakes and failures. But in some cases it was just a matter of changing spending priorities in the Defense Department under a new administration and shrinking defense budgets."

Boeing continues to have some well-running and profitable programs. Chief among them is the 737, of which more than 3,000 have been sold after launching 42 years ago. It's the world's best-selling jetliner, and its future is rosy. Boeing expects to turn 150 to 200 more of them a year off assembly lines for another decade.

But Boeing's problems are many:

•747-8 The first longer version of the venerable 747 was supposed to provide airlines a slightly smaller alternative to Airbus' enormous A380. But it's behind schedule, and demand for such huge planes is weak.

•767 Boeing wants to build a tanker version of the 767 for the U.S. Air Force. But a scandal that landed the company's former CFO in prison led to the program being scrubbed. The Air Force is expected to rebid it.

•777. Sales of the successful 300-plus-seat international wide-body slowed as customers opted for the slightly smaller, more efficient 787 jetliner. Some carriers are taking another look since the 787 ran into trouble.

•V-22 Osprey. The tilt-rotor aircraft, made in partnership with Bell Helicopter, is under congressional scrutiny because of concerns about its high cost of operation, reliability and safety.

•Future Combat Systems. Boeing was the chief manager on this second-biggest defense program behind the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. But poor performance and changing Defense Department priorities led to Boeing's role being reduced.

•Joint Tactical Radio System Cluster 1. Boeing's management of the project for the military was so bad it received a stop-work order from the Defense Department. Eventually, the program was restructured rather than canceled but with Boeing in a diminished role.

•F-22 Raptor. President Obama is threatening to veto the next defense appropriations bill if it contains any money for more F-22s. Some in Congress want to keep the world's most advanced, and most expensive, fighter in light production in hopes of landing future foreign military sales. Boeing is a partner on it with rival Lockheed Martin, the program leader.

•T-45. The last of this Boeing fighter trainer is to be delivered soon. No replacement is planned.

•Ground-based Missile Defense System. Boeing won the contract to develop this anti-missile missile system to protect the U.S. mainland. But chronic technical problems and delays have left the program vulnerable to changed priorities and reduced funding.

•Airborne Laser system. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned Boeing that he wants to cancel its contract to develop a weapon that fires an intense beam of light from transport planes to knock out enemy missiles during their launch.

•Unmanned aerial vehicles. These armed and unarmed drones are becoming an area of defense-contracting strength for Boeing. Given the cost of manned fighter jets and pilot training, building remote-controlled planes is a growth business in which Boeing is an early leader.

•Sea Launch. This ambitious venture with Norwegian, Russian and Ukrainian companies to launch commercial satellites into high orbits from a floating launch platform/ship stationed at the equator, entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June with liabilities of more than $1 billion. Boeing, as 40% owner, has warned it likely will take a charge against earnings of up to $500 million.

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