Boeing said on Sunday that it was optimistic it could maintain production of its F/A-18 and EA-18G fighter jets in St. Louis through the end of 2017 — a year longer than expected — if Congress approved additional orders of a dozen more planes.
But the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told reporters that slowing production to extend the line was likely to increase costs at a time when budgets were already tight.
Kendall at a separate briefing:
“I don’t see how we can do that without it costing money and we just don’t have money to spend on things that aren’t core requirements right now.”
The company was in discussions with the U.S. Navy about revamping the production schedule for jets already ordered, according to Chris Chadwick, president and chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, but added no decisions were made.
Action by several congressional committees to add funding for 12 more EA-18G electronic attack fighters or Growlers “looked very positive” and should allow the company to keep the production line running a year longer than expected, according to Chadwick.
Chadwick to reporters at the company’s London office ahead of the Farnborough air show:
“I think that will allow us to stretch the line out… through the end of 2017. We have to look at what we have in the pipeline, what gets added to it, and how you might be able to spread those (orders) over multiple years.”
“We are not going to be buying the F/A-18 indefinitely. We’re going to stop buying them… and doing uneconomic things to prolong that process is not in the interest of the department.”
Chadwick, regarding international orders for the F/A-18 Super Hornet:
“There is some interest. We’re looking at competing in a number of areas.”
Later this year, the U.S. Navy plans to test the possibility of using seven EA-18G Growlers on an aircraft carrier instead of the five currently used.