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Udskrift af interview med Tom Bell

Olfi interviewede onsdag den 6. april Boeings Tom Bell på Hotel Marriott i København. Her følger en udskrift af den del af interviewet, som omhandlede, hvorvidt Boeing deltager med to versioner af Super Hornet F/A-18 i den danske kampfly-komkurrence:

Peter (Olfi):  One of the things that we hear when you talk about the fighter competition is this thing…. especially when it comes to the Super Hornet… it’s two thing that I hear all the time… it’s the two-seats… why should we have two seats – and I still don’t understand the way in the very beginning, the way they decided what kind they wanted – to have three very different or what the meaning was.. Anyway, that’s one thing I would be interested to hear about. The other thing is about the American military forces and what kind of jets are they using in the future because I heard that they will be focusing almost only on the F-35. And that the Navy is also going to change to have the F-35 and within a couple of years…10 or 20 years there will be no more Super Hornets in the American Navy. Maybe you can say something about that. The third question is that a lot of politicians and people who know about the competition are talking very much about cooperation with other countries and you know we have had a very successful cooperation with Norway and the Netherlands with the F-16 and I just met with the Norwegian Minister of Defense last week and she said that she was glad that Great Britain had signed up with the F-35 because now they can start cooperating. They haven’t been doing that since the 50s… I know it’s important for the politicians what other countries uses the same fighter jet, so if you could say something about those three topics.

Tom Bell (Boeing):  So let’s just deal in the order you gave…. First one was two-seat, right? So let me go back… I’m in a little bit of nostalgia… I looked at my passport when I was coming here and my first trip to Denmark on this campaign was January 2009. So I’m celebrating 7 years of visiting Denmark, talking about this….  Back in 2009, the New Fighter Aircraft Office asked us exclusively for information on the single seat fighter.  So, you know, we make three versions of the Super Hornet; we make the E version which is the single seat version; we make the F version which is the double seat version; and we make the G version, which is called Growler. The Growler is a two-seat version that’s heavily modified to do what’s called electronic attack and electronic jamming. Are those terms familiar to you, Peter?

Peter:  Yes

Tom Bell: So we make three versions of the Super Hornet.

Peter:  Just to understand Growler is the description you used….  I mean, there’s also an F-35 Growler, no? It’s the Boeing Super Hornet….?

Tom Bell:  No. It’s the only electronic attack and jamming aircraft in the US Navy…in the U.S. defense inventory. It’s the only aircraft that does electronic attack and jamming.  So, E, F, G… we make three versions of the Super Hornet. Back in 2009, the evaluation was done purely around the E model, the single seat version of the Super Hornet.  When the new Request for Binding Information – RBI – came out, it requested F model information. So, we had responded during the last campaign about just the E model and this time the New Fighter Aircraft Office asked us for formally – actually asked the US Navy – they specified they wanted information on the F model.  We actually went back to the office and said… F, only F? They said yes, we have all the information we need on the E from the last competition and we would like to understand the opportunities that exist with the F model through this competition. 

Peter:  So, does it mean that you actually are in the competition with both models?

Tom Bell: We’ll build… we will sell Denmark whatever they want.  If Denmark wants all E’s… 

Peter:  So the office actually said that we have the knowledge about … 

Tom Bell: They have all that. And actually the RBI is an addendum and an update to the existing. 

Peter:  Ahhh…. OK, that’s interesting

Tom Bell: The way it’s written, it’s an addition to… 

Peter:  Just so I understand… when a guy like me writes that… it’s this one, it’s the double seater, it’s not necessary… the double seater…

Tom Bell:  We’re simply responding to the Danish NFA office request and it was specifically for the F. It’s not our business to question why… 

Peter:  OK. That could be a story itself because when we talk about the competition it says that we have three planes… and that the Super Hornet is a double seater.

Tom Bell:  It can be. Here are the facts; we can build you all E’s, we can build you all F’s or we can build you a mix of the two. And we’re very proud of the fact that that is an option that no one else has because it does give you some flexibility. Let me explain in very simple English and Marcia can get you more of the specifics on the technical characteristics but in very simple language… the two planes are identical – identical. Except, in order to make room for the second cockpit we take out one fuel bladder…fuel tank… and we put in a second seat and a mission cockpit. Because the back seat is a fully capable pilot station; it’s not simply an observer. You can fly the airplane from the back seat.  What we do is we simply take out one fuel tank and put in a second seat. Structurally, otherwise, length, width, tail, performance characteristics, speed…all those things are identical. Now, why would you want to sacrifice fuel for that second cockpit? Well, what some customers choose to do is sacrifice the fuel for the CPU that is in the second pilot’s brain because in the high threat environment that people are operating in these days, that second brain in the back seat is a force multiplier for the pilot in the front seat. It’s a bit of ability to divide and conquer the threats and the opportunities that present themselves while on a mission. But it does sacrifice some range, because you’re taking out fuel and you’re adding a little weight – because the pilot, the seat, the mission system, the life support system weigh more than the fuel that is taken out.  Make sense? 

Peter: Yes

Tom Bell: But otherwise, they are identical airplanes. The fact is, we already responded with the E version and the New Fighter Aircraft Office has asked to simply only respond with the F version this time because they told us they had all the information they needed on the E version. As far as we’re concerned, we wouldn’t be surprised if they tell us we want the E, we want the F, we want a mix…we’re prepared for any of those and we’ll be very happy with that. 

Peter: That was an important message.

Tom Bell: OK, good.  We were happy when the New Fighter Aircraft Office asked us for the F model because we do think it opens up opportunities for Denmark to exploit the Swiss Army Knife* in interesting ways. Because in the back seat you don’t have to have a pilot; you can have an Army officer so that when the airplane is doing close air support for Army troops on the ground he’s talking to the Army in Army terms, right? Like spotter…. almost. You can have a Naval officer if you’re liaisoning with the Royal Danish Navy doing patrolling of sea lanes or you can have a forward air controller in the back seat, who’s helping command the battle space forward. So there are all sorts of things you can do with the back seat but coming back to your original question: we build three versions, we’re happy to sell Denmark any of the first two, the Growler is not yet released for Denmark.

*Tom used the Swiss Army Knife as an analogy to the Super Hornet

Denne udskrift er udelukkende offentliggjort for at dokumentere indholdet af interviewet. Af samme årsag har Olfi sat udgivelsestidspunktet til en ældre dato for at holde interviewet ude af den kronologiske artikelstrøm.

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