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Boeing aims to expand base in Asian defence market

SINGAPORE (AFP): Boeing wants to expand its defence business outside the United States as it moves to compensate for Washington's cuts in defence spending, a leading executive has said.

Dennis Muilenburg, president and chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, said the aerospace giant aimed to sell more fighters such as the F-15 and F/A-18 Super Hornet, airlift planes and unmanned systems in Asia.

The international market now accounts for about 16 percent of Boeing's total annual defence revenues of 34 billion dollars and the company plans to expand this to 20-25 percent in the next five years, Muilenberg said.

The Asia-Pacific now contributes half of non-US revenues, he told reporters in Singapore on Friday, where he was attending a security forum.

"We've seen some flattening in the US defence budget and that has impacted us in a couple of areas like missile defence," he said.

"As we see our international business growing to roughly 25 percent of our business, the Asia fraction of that will grow a little above 50 per cent just because of the market here and the opportunities that we see."

With demand for its main products remaining robust, the company is expanding into other businesses such as unmanned systems, computer systems security and protection for electrical power grids.

It is also expanding its business outside the US military and looking for more contracts in countries such as India, Singapore, Australia, South Korea and Japan, Muilenburg said.

"Our international business segment is a strong growth area," he added.

The need for new aircraft in humanitarian relief missions and disaster rescue is driving demand for its Chinook helicopters and C-17 military transport planes, he said.

India has signed a deal to buy eight P8i anti-submarine aircraft from Boeing and has expressed an interest in purchasing 10 C-17 military transport aircraft.

Boeing is also one of several companies battling for a contract, worth almost 12 billion dollars, to supply 126 fighter jets to the Indian air force.

Boeing is touting its F-18 "Superhornet" while another US firm, Lockheed Martin, is offering the F-16. The other rivals include European, Russian, French and Swedish contractors.

Boeing's F-15s are key elements in several Asian air forces, including in South Korea, where tensions with its communist northern neighbour are rising after the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

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