SINGAPORE (AP) -- Boeing Corp. is counting on growing demand in Asia and the Middle East for military aircraft to help offset possible spending cuts in Europe and the U.S., a top company executive said Friday.
Austerity measures to help lower government debt will likely reduce military spending in Europe and leave U.S. expenditures flat for the next several years, said Dennis Muilenberg, chief executive of Boeing's defense, space and security unit.
"It's certainly a challenging environment," Muilenberg told reporters in Singapore. "Our growth prospects are somewhat muted. We anticipate steady, moderate growth in our defense business."
Boeing is hoping to boost defense sales outside the U.S. to about 25 percent of its revenue by 2013, up from 17 percent last year and 7 percent in 2006. About half of Boeing's $64 billion of revenue last year came from defense sales.
South Korea will likely request proposals on a contract for 60 fighter jets during the first quarter of next year, and Boeing plans to bid its F-15 model, Muilenberg said.
Boeing sells a variety of fighter jets, transport planes and attack helicopters to governments in the region including Japan, Singapore, South Korea and India.
"We see strength in all of those markets," Muilenberg said. "We expect our growth to be driven by Asia and the Middle East."
"Saudi Arabia is a very important customer for us," he added. "The interest in the F-15 and the Apache (helicopters) is continuing to move forward robustly."
Based in Chicago, Boeing is the world's largest aerospace company and employs 159,000 people in 70 countries.