Mark Collins – How Long Will the F/A-18E/F Line Growl On?

Further to this post,

US Navy: Slow F-35C Arrival=Super Hornet Life Extension

where things stand now–of considerable interest to Canada if we are to consider the aircraft for the RCAF’s new fighter:

USN Growler order complete as Boeing seeks F/A-18 orders

The US Navy has contracted Boeing to deliver its final tranche of EA-18G Growlers, and the company is now looking to the Pentagon and abroad for more orders to sustain the common Growler and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet assembly line in St Louis beyond 2017.

The $898 million order for 15 aircraft, announced this week, rounds out the navy’s total requirement for 153 EA-18G advanced electronic attack jets – although Boeing says there are ongoing discussions and analysis with the navy about additional Growler and Super Hornet orders.

Boeing is in the process of cutting the output rate at St Louis from three aircraft per month to two by the first quarter of 2016 in an attempt to keep the line viable until at least 2019…

Boeing confirms that the latest Growler order will sustain the line through 2017, and the company remains hopeful of another dozen Super Hornet orders from the Pentagon following budget deliberations in Congress. More commitments could also come from “a Middle East customer” – a package estimated at two-dozen or so aircraft [Kuwait, more here, scroll down].

In addition, a change of government in Canada last week could see Boeing compete to replace the Royal Canadian Air Force’s outdated CF-18s, if the new prime minister Justin Trudeau follows through with his promise to reject the Lockheed Martin F-35. Boeing is also awaiting an F-16 replacement decision from Denmark by the end of the year.

The F/A-18E/F is also a candidate to replace Finland’s 61 legacy C/D Hornets, where it is up against the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35 and Saab Gripen E.

See also:

The RCAF’s New Fighter and Long-Term Sustainability: What About the US Navy?

F-35 and Canadian Election: Liberals Loose With Fighter Costs

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


13 thoughts on “Mark Collins – How Long Will the F/A-18E/F Line Growl On?”

  1. USN really wants more of those Super Hornets:

    “The US Navy officials have reaffirmed plans to procure an additional 24 to 36 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets through fiscal year 2018 while also boosting F/A-18C life-extension rates, primarily due to delays in fielding the carrier-based Lockheed Martin F-35C.

    Boeing has been trying desperately to shore up Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler production in St Louis, Missouri, but the company’s difficulty in securing international sales has raised doubts.

    However, comments by navy officials at a congressional hearing this week suggest more F/A-18 orders in fiscal 2017 and 2018. That’s in addition to the dozen aircraft that are likely to be funded in the current fiscal 2016 budget…”

    Mark Collins

  2. USN thinking:

    ‘2-star: F-35 delays could force further extension of Super Hornets

    Joint strike fighter delays may force the carrier Navy to fly F/A-18 Super Hornets even longer into coming decades, a predicament that could reduce training hours and strain airframes.

    Plans have been in the works to retire the F/A-18C Hornets in the mid-2020s, followed by the F/A-18E and F Super Hornets around 2035, but the consistently delayed development of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter has compelled the service to push the Hornets past their planned service lives. The dilemma raises the possibility that Super Hornets new to the fleet may still be flying in three decades.

    “We might even fly these airplanes close to 2040,” air warfare director Rear Adm. Mike Manazir told members of the House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower on Monday [Nov. 2]…

    The Navy has often been billed as being lukewarm on the F-35C, but part of that has to do with a current shortcoming: The aircraft’s latest software suits the Air Force and Marine Corps, Manazir said, but the Navy is waiting for a 2018 update that has a certain mix of weapons and air wing integration support.

    “Because I integrate all my capabilities, I do not need an earlier F-35C with what they call Block-2B software, because it doesn’t give me the capability I need in my air wing,” he said. “So I’m not going to spend money on those earlier block models. I’m going to wait and buy the Block-3F software.”..

    The Navy has plans to speed-up Hornet — and eventually Super Hornet — life extensions; coupled with a proposed buy of 24 to 36 new Super Hornets over the next three years, Manazir said…’

    Mark Collins

  3. Line goes on a while longer it would seem:

    “Final FY 2016 Spending Bill Released; Funds Super Hornets, Growlers, Additional F-35s [Bs and Cs]

    The House and Senate appropriations committees released a final Fiscal Year 2016 spending plan that meets the new requirements of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 and funds the Defense Department at $572.8 billion in base and Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding…

    The Defense Department portion of the spending bill includes $111 billion for new equipment and upgrades, including several items beyond what the Navy and Marine Corps asked for in their budget request. The bill proposes adding $660 million for seven E/A-18G Growlers and $350 million for five F/A-18 Super Hornets [$70M each only?], creating more work for Boeing’s production line that the company said earlier this year would stay open despite uncertainties surrounding additional American buys.

    The bill would also add $780 million for six additional F-35B Joint Strike Fighters for the Marine Corps and $255 million for two additional F-35C JSFs for the Navy; bringing the total to 15 F-35Bs and six F-35Cs in FY 2016…”

    Mark Collins

  4. More on USN F-35Cs–and Super Hornets–very interesting:

    ‘Carter Orders Navy to Build Fewer Ships, Spend More on Jets

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered U.S. Navy leaders to buy fewer ships so the service can spend more on jets such as the F-35 as well as munitions and upgraded systems for electronic warfare.

    “For the last several years, the Department of the Navy has overemphasized resources used to incrementally increase total ship numbers at the expense of critically needed investments in areas where our adversaries are not standing still, such as strike, ship survivability, electronic warfare and other capabilities,” Carter wrote in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News that’s rare in its blunt rejection of a military service’s approach…

    Navy spokesman Commander William Marks said service officials were aware of Carter’s memo but “budget discussion are pre-decisional and it would inappropriate to discuss anything further until the FY 17 budget is finalized. ”..

    In the memo to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus…Carter directed the Navy to increase purchases over the five years of Lockheed’s F-35 and the F/A-18E/F made by Boeing Co. Thirty-one of the Navy’s version of the F-35 would be added over the Navy’s request…’

    Mark Collins

    1. Note mention of Canada in article above:

      As an older design, “competitiveness of the Super Hornet heavily depends upon price,” Aboulafia told me. So the importance of the Kuwait deal, he said, “it’s not just that it guarantees a couple of years, it guarantees a couple of years at a competitive price [to] keep in the game with Canada” ..’

      Mark Collins

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