Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Under Trump, Super Hornet Production set to double

Under Trump, Super Hornet gets a boost: Production set to double


It's been the backbone of naval aviation for four decades and now, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly called attention to the program, the F-18 is getting a second life.

Last week, the final 2017 federal budget allotted $1.1 billion for 14 new Super Hornet fighter jets.

While it wasn't the 24 fighter jets at $2.3 billion the president had proposed in his supplemental budget proposal, it marked a win nonetheless: the original Defense Department budget proposal, released early last year, had requested none.

"We always thought that the Navy buying additional Super Hornets made sense because they need airplanes to last into the 2040s," said Dan Gillian, head of Boeing's F/A-18 and EA-18 programs.

Of course Boeing would think that — and it may have made sense. Still, until recently, the F-18 program had been viewed by many to be a production line on life support, as newer planes including Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter roll off assembly lines and into future U.S. carrier air wings.

Now, "St. Louis and the fighter business stays on for the next round of programs," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Virginia-based industry consultancy Teal Group. "It didn't look like that would be the case a year ago. Super Hornet orders had been expected to be down by end of decade."

Boeing's St. Louis, Missouri-based F-18 assembly line complex is currently turning out EA-18G Growlers, the jamming planes outfitted from Super Hornets, for the fiscal 2015 budget year. That year the Navy only ordered Growlers. The following year's budget included five Super Hornets, but the 2017 budget that just passed through Congress is the one that will prove to be an inflection point.

"Today we're producing two shipsets per month — Super Hornets and Growlers — in this factory," said Gillian, clad in safety goggles as he walks the plant floor, past stations stocked with workers and plane parts.

"As we think about the U.S. Navy's demands for additional airplanes to address the Super Hornet shortfall, as we think about their international demands, we can see that going up to 3 or 4 per month sometime in the early 20s," he said.

Boeing anticipates the U.S. Navy will purchase at least another 100 F/A-18s in the five budget cycles beginning with 2018, ensuring its place on aircraft carriers through the next two decades.

Read entire post: cnbc.com

Related post:

F/A-18E/F Super Hornet: Details