The Jun. 1, 2023 Defense Department contract announcement says that the contract modification specifically “procures critical long lead material and associated efforts in support of maintaining the full rate production timeline for the congressionally added F/A-18E/F aircraft.”
About 70 percent of the contract will be executed in El Segundo, Calif., where Boeing subcontractor Northrop Grumman builds the fuselage sections of the Super Hornets before shipping it to Boeing’s aircraft factory in Missouri.
The long-lead contract for the Super Hornets comes after Congress added 20 Super Hornets to the Navy’s budget over the last two fiscal years – $977 million for 12 in Fiscal Year 2022 and $600 million for eight in FY 2023.
The Navy has yet to execute the contracts for the Super Hornets. However, the service is obligated to buy the fighters. The holdup had to do with who owned the technical data-rights for Super Hornet components for sustainment and repair, a legislative source told USNI News.
As already reported, Boeing expects to complete new-build production of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft in late 2025 following delivery of the final US Navy fighters. However, the line could remain open till 2027 if the Indian Navy selects the Super Hornet for its aircraft carriers.
The US Navy has been trying for the last several budget cycles to sundown Super Hornet production and instead direct funds into the development of F/A-XX fighter (the Navy Next-Generation Air Dominance program).
In May 2022 Navy officials said in a written testimony to Congress that the Navy Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is meant to expand the range for carrier-based operations.
“The NGAD [family of systems] will replace the F/A-18E/F Block II aircraft as they begin to reach end of service life in the 2030s and leverage Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) in order to provide increased lethality and survivability,” joint testimony from Department of Navy acquisition officials said. “F/A-XX is the strike fighter component of the NGAD FoS that will be the ‘Quarterback’ of the MUM-T concept, directing multiple tactical platforms at the leading edge of the battlespace.”
The concept for NGAD is that a family of manned and unmanned systems will work together, centered around F/A-XX which will be a manned fighter.
Photo credit: Boeing
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