Although Super Hornet and Growler production is currently set to end in 2018, Boeing is confident of extending the line through to the mid-2020s based on a USN requirement to replace worn out airframes and international interest. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen
Boeing anticipates an extension of its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler production lines as a result of an increased operational tempo by the US Navy (USN) and strong international interest in procuring the platform, company officials told reporters on 10 June.
Speaking at Boeing’s Global Sustainment and Support (GS&S) site at Cecil Field in northern Florida, Dan Gillian, Vice President of the F/A-18 and EA-18G programmes, said that, with the USN burning through airframe hours at a far higher rate than originally intended and with additional exports expected in the near term, the company is confident of extending production from the current mid-2018 cut-off point through into the next decade.
“I believe that we will continue to build new Hornets and Growlers. We have slowed production down to two aircraft per month, and we will keep it at that level through to mid-2018. There is strong domestic and international demand that we see sustaining production through to the mid-2020s,” Gillian said.
The US Navy’s current programme of record is for 568 Super Hornets and 160 Growlers. As Gillian noted, however, the service has identified a ‘Super Hornet shortfall’ that will materialise in the 2030s/2040s as aircraft prematurely reach the end of their 6,000 hour airframe lives owing to the high operational tempo being flown today. To try and mitigate this, additional aircraft have already been requested in the fiscal year defence budget, and Gillian expressed his confidence that these will be approved.
On the international front, Gillian noted that a deal with Kuwait is currently going through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process with the US government and should be finalised in the not-too-distant future. Current legacy Hornet operator Finland has issued a request for proposals (RfP) that Boeing is preparing its response to, as has Belgium. Spain, which also now flies the Hornet, is in the early stages of a fighter procurement project for which Boeing will bid the Super Hornet, while India and Canada are being offered the platform to fulfil their respective requirements also.