Attrition: Boeing Gets Busted For Poor Quality

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November 10, 2010: South Korea is not happy with the quality of the $100 million F-15K fighter bombers they are buying from the U.S. Boeing firm. One of the latest F-15Ks to arrive was found to have several defects, all attributable to poor quality control. This is nothing new. Two years ago, South Korean Air Force officials had a "good news/bad news" message for Boeing, regarding defective components in the 29 Boeing built F-15K fighter-bombers that were recently delivered. Some 1200 components were found to be defective. This did not create any serious operational problems with the aircraft. The South Koreans also pointed out that each aircraft had 65,000 components that might need to be repaired or replaced, which meant the 1,200 defective parts represented only one part in every 1,667. Boeing and the Department of Defense assured South Korea that quality inspections, by Department of Defense inspectors, would deal with the problem. They did, for a while. But recently it's been discovered that some of the inspectors were unqualified or not assigned to where they were most needed.

Doubts about Boeing quality control goes back five years, when one of their F-15Ks (similar to the U.S. Air Force F-15E) was lost in an accident. That incident turned out to have resulted from the pilot turning too sharply and blacking out from excessive G-forces. Despite the 2008 problems, South Korea went ahead and ordered another 21 F-15Ks.

The F-15K is a customized version of the 36 ton U.S. F-15E (a two seat fighter bomber version of the single seat, 31 ton F-15C fighter). Already in service for over twenty years, the F-15E can carry up to 11 tons of bombs and missiles (compared to 8 tons on the F-4s South Korea was previously using as a fighter-bomber), along with a targeting pod and an internal 20mm cannon. It's an all weather aircraft that can fly one-way up to 3,900 kilometers. It uses in-flight refueling to hit targets anywhere on the planet. Smart bombs made the F-15 particularly efficient. The backseater handles the electronics and bombing. The F-15E remains a potent air-superiority fighter, making it an exceptional combat aircraft. This success prompted Israel, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Singapore to buy it, paying about $100 million per aircraft. In the U.S. Air Force, the F-15E is one of the most popular aircraft for combat pilots to fly, even more so than the new F-22. But these quality issues are making some potential buyers nervous.

 

 


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