Boeing Wins Contract For 78 New F-18s
Matthew Greenwood posted on March 29, 2019 |
Contract would modernize the Navy's fleet of fighter jets.

Boeing will be building F-18s for the U.S. Navy for the next three years under a contract worth about $4 billion.

The 78 Block III configuration Super Hornet jets will include improved network capability, longer range, reduced radar signature, and advanced cockpit and communication systems.

Boeing will also begin converting existing Block II Super Hornets to Block III early in the next decade. The fighter’s life also will be extended from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours.

Of the 78 Super Hornets in the contract, 61 are F/A-18E single-seat jets and 17 are F/A-18F double-seat fighters. All are Block III aircraft, which have better stealth capabilities, greater range, and can carry more weapons than their Block II predecessors. They are also expected to last far longer than the Block IIs, which have been wearing out faster than intended: the Block IIIs should have a life of 9,000 flight hours—about a decade longer than the Block IIs.

The timeline of the contract is an important element, giving Boeing and its suppliers some cost and commitment certainty. “A multiyear contract helps the F/A-18 team seek out suppliers with a guaranteed three years of production, instead of negotiating year to year,” said Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18G programs. “It helps both sides with planning, and we applaud the U.S. Navy on taking the appropriate steps needed to help solve its readiness challenges.”

The three-year contact could also save the Navy some money—about $395 million, according to Boeing estimates.

Boeing’s “Stories from the Deck” video series on the F-18.

This contract represents a remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of the famous fighter jet. Just a few years ago, Boeing was considering closing down the entire Super Hornet production line. In 2016, the Navy’s budget request left out the F-18 entirely, even though the Navy had expressed a desire to buy more Super Hornets to replace its fleet of aging F/A-18A-D strike fighters.

But the Navy has since changed its mind, with a current five-year plan to buy 110 Super Hornets in total. This contract will deliver a majority of the warfighters committed to in that plan.

The Navy recently retired the last of its legacy F/A-18C Hornets—fighter planes that were first manufactured in the 1980s. The new Super Hornet models will take the place of the old jets. Work is expected to be completed by 2024.

Want to find out more about the F-18? Check out U.S. Marine Corps Selects Raytheon to Supply AESA Radar Upgrade for the Hornet.


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