by Travis J. Tritten | Jun 15, 2017, 1:11 PM
The Navy said Thursday it's planning to buy 80 Super Hornet fighters over the next five years despite a fiscal 2018 defense budget request for 14 that caused disappointment among some in Congress.
The needed number of F/A-18E/F jets may even increase beyond 80 depending on a planned strategic review by the Pentagon in advance of next year's budget, acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The aircraft, made by Boeing, was seen to be on the wane just a few years ago as the military was developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but this month the defense company said it was predicting increased demand.
"Stuff happens and the world gets a vote," said Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations. "Right now, the Super Hornet is a very capable strike fighter aircraft. It is doing terrific work for us right now."
The additional aircraft will be needed to fill the gaps as existing Hornets age and need maintenance and upgrades, Richardson said.
"We're working with industry to see if we can modernize it some, make it even more capable, so it can be that thing that mitigates some of these emergent types of world situations," he said.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo, said Thursday she was "disheartened" by 2018 defense budget plans for the Navy to buy 14 of the fighters, when she expected 10 more. The jets are built in St. Louis.
"Since this has been the No. 1 slot in the unfunded priorities list for the third year in a row, I need to understand how that 24 number got to 14 and what those 10 fighter jets, the money for those, what that was used to pay for," McCaskill said.
Stackley blamed funding constraints for the number, but denied the money had been moved elsewhere in the defense budget.
"First requirement is the total number of aircraft we need and we have to figure out how best to buy that with our budget constraints," Stackley said.
Meanwhile, the Navy will be leaning on foreign military sales for the coming year to keep the jet's industrial base afloat.
"When we look at industrial base considerations, we also factor in foreign military sales, so we are working hard on the foreign military sales side," Stackley said.
F/A-18E/F & Block III Super Hornet: Details