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Boeing Bullish Over F-18 and Future Programs

Triton

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"Navy Cagey, Boeing Cocky Over F-18s Future"
by Sydney J Freedberg, Jr.
December 9, 2013

Source:
http://breakingdefense.com/2013/12/navy-cagey-boeing-cocky-over-f-18s-future/

PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION: “My job is to preserve options and that’s what I do,” said Capt. Francis Morley, Navy program manager for the F-18 fighter family. Will the Navy press ahead to buy more F-18s in the face of what seems pretty determined opposition from the Office of Secretary of Defense, eager to preserve F-35 funding? “I’ll let the folks in the building figure out what numbers they want,” Morley said.

In October, the Navy issued and then withdrew a pre-solicitation for “up to 36” F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18 Growlers to be bought in fiscal year 2015, when current long-term plans call for zero. “That was an error — my responsibility,” Morley said. “It got everybody excited, [but] it was no indication of what the intent was for FY ’15. That was purely the program maintaining options.”

In fact, Morley said, withdrawing the pre-solicitation was a formality that didn’t actually take any options off the table: “The decision space is still here.”

What about rumors that the Navy withdrew the F-18 pre-solicitation because the Office of the Secretary of Defense came down like a ton of bricks on a potential threat to its favorite plane, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter?

“Didn’t happen,” said Morley. [But do we believe him? -- the editor]

“We spend too much time on this F-18 vs. JSF [question],” added Morley’s boss, Rear Adm. Donald Gaddis, who oversees all Navy fighter programs. No matter what happens with the Hornets, the Navy F-35C won’t enter service until 2019 and will take years to enter the fleet in numbers. “Until JSF does arrive in the fleet,” Gaddis said, “the Super Hornet is Navy aviation. That’ s our striking power, it’s the mainstay of our force structure, and there’s nothing else out there.”

“Y’all talk a lot about leadership’s commitment to the JSF, but leadership is just as committed to the Super Hornet and to the Growler,” Gaddis said, and it’s going to invest in upgrading and sustaining both aircraft for two more decades. Ah, but whose leadership, we wonder?

Even Gaddis’s ringing endorsement of the F-18, however, doesn’t actually answer the question of whether the Navy hopes to buy more in 2015, let alone whether OSD will allow it.

Boeing is “Bullish”

While the Navy was cagey, Boeing seemed almost cocky.

“I can easily envision a production line going beyond 2020,” said Mike Gibbons, who runs the Super Hornet and Growler programs at Boeing. Despite the current official plan to end purchases of the jet in 2014, “there could be several more years of buys by the US Navy.”

In fact, he told reporters in a Hornet hanger here at Pax River, he’d bet money on it. And betting its own money, tens of millions of dollars of it, is exactly what Boeing may have to do to keep production going on certain long-lead-time items if it doesn’t get a definitive answer before March 2014.

Even if the Pentagon keeps F-18s out of the ’15 request, the plane’s supporters on Capitol Hill — most notably Rep. Randy Forbes – might manage to vote them back into the budget. But “I’m not looking for Congress to add jets,” Gibbons said: He is “bullish” that the Pentagon will ask for more.

Outside the US, Boeing is pursuing at least nine potential foreign customers, although not all of them all of them have committed to buying any new aircraft, let alone show a particular preference for the F-18 family: “Brazil, Malaysia, Canada, Denmark, Kuwait” – which already has older-model Hornets — “[and] several countries in the Mideast that we don’t discuss by name,” Gibbons said, and he has hopes the Australians will buy more planes on top of their recent purchase. Win even a few of those sales, he said, and “at 24 [planes] per year that gets you beyond 2020 easily.” (Australian officials have said publicly they do not plan to buy more F-18s.)

The line currently builds 48 jets per year and is headed down to 36 (which was, not coincidentally, the maximum number in the withdrawn solicitation). It can go as low as 24 before it becomes uneconomic. As you lose economies of scale in ordering supplies, said Gibbons, “our practical minimum is two jets per month.”

At that rate, and buying a year’s worth of aircraft at a time instead of signing a bulk-buy “multi-year procurement” contract, the price of the jet Boeing delivers (which doesn’t include the engine) will rise from the current $37 million to somewhere closer to $40 million. (A complete Super Hornet, with engine and electronic warfare gear, currently costs about $51 million, he said, while a fully equipped Growler costs about $60 million).

Currently, “there is no plan to shut down the production line,” Gibbons said, which would require the Navy to sign a shut-down contract costing “hundreds of millions of dollars.” And, he went on, “I actually believe, based on the amount of interest at the top [in the military], that we won’t be embarking on that production shutdown next year.”

In fact, between the hoped-for future F-18s and the F-15s Boeing is building for the Air Force, Gibbons predicted that the company’s Saint Louis aircraft factory will be able to keep making those aircraft until the next generation comes along: the Air Force’s long range bomber, its future air-superiority fighter the F-X, its proposed T-X trainer, and then the Navy’s UCLASS drone and future F/A-XX strike fighter. “We’re putting a lot of investment in all of those,” he said. “We will never have a production gap in Saint Louis.”

What Gibbons didn’t mention was that most of those aircraft are more aspirations than actual programs – the F-X and F/A-XX are especially hypothetical – and it’s far from guaranteed they’ll happen, let alone that Boeing will win them. In fact, in the current budgetary chaos on Capitol Hill, it’s hard to predict how much money the Pentagon will have next year, let alone what it will spend it on.
 

blackstar

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Hmmm...
 

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Sundog

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Thanks, I never seem to get my copy (Aviation Week) until everyone else has the new one. What I find more interesting is the part about the F-15 with LO signatures almost as low as the Raptors. I would like to know if that's all aspect or just head on. I suspect the latter.
 

Arjen

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CBS local news: New Budget Could Help Keep Boeing Super Hornet In St. Louis
January 22, 2014 3:48 PM
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) - Congress is making a move that may help keep the Boeing Super Hornet assembly line funded and open here in St. Louis.

The Super Hornet employes approximately 4,000 people in St. Louis, but it only has orders to keep the line open through 2016.

Now, the latest budget signed into law late last week contains a down payment of $75 million for 22 of the Super Hornets the Navy hasn’t ordered.

The idea is to give the Navy the option this year of spending as much as $2 billlion for the extra planes, as back up in case an order of Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighters is delayed.

Missouri Senators McCaskill and Blunt are both pushing the Navy to pull the trigger on the extra Super Hornets. Blunt has warned of fighter jet shortfalls on aircraft carriers.
 

Triton

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"U.S. Lawmaker Urges Continuation Of Boeing F/A-18 Fighter Line"
by Andrea Shalal-Esa/Reuters
December 06, 2013

Source:
http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_12_06_2013_p0-643990.xml

Randy Forbes, a key member of the House Armed Services Committee, on Thursday urged Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to rethink the U.S. Navy’s current plan to allow Boeing Co’s F/A-18 fighter jet production to close in 2016.

Forbes released a December 4 letter to Hagel in which he raised concerns about the fighter industrial base and warned about relying solely on the next-generation F-35C fighter jet being developed by Lockheed Martin Corp since it will not be ready for operational use on an aircraft carrier until 2019.

“The risk to U.S. national security and the health of our aviation industrial base of relying on only one tactical aircraft supply line is simply too great to allow the line to close,” Forbes said in the letter.

The lawmaker’s warning comes amid a concerted push by Boeing for additional U.S. and foreign orders for its popular F/A-18 Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler electronic attack plane based on the same airframe to keep production going.

Boeing executives say they see good prospects for additional F/A-18 orders from the U.S. Navy, Canada, Australia, Denmark and several other countries, and they plan to continue investing in the fighter line.

Dennis Muilenburg, head of Boeing’s defense business, last month said the company must decide soon whether to self fund certain long-lead procurement items to extend the line beyond 2016, but he did not expect a decision to shut the line.

U.S. Navy officials say they would like to buy more F/A-18s and are exploring options to do so but caution that there is no funding for any such purchases at this point. The timing of any new foreign orders also remains unclear.

Forbes said the Pentagon should maintain F/A-18 production in St. Louis, Missouri to safeguard the industrial base and ensure competition. Shutting the line, he warned, would eliminate “vital competition that could result in spiraling costs, leading to more expensive, less capable systems.”

It would also eliminate competition among suppliers, including companies that build aircraft radar and engines.

Forbes urged Hagel to ensure continued competition in the fighter jet market, just as it has done in shipbuilding and submarine industries.

A Navy official, speaking on background, said the service would “very much like” to order more F/A-18 or EA-18G aircraft, but there was no funding available at the moment.

“The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler bring unique, proven and exceptional warfighting capability to the Navy and joint forces,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak on the record. “The Navy continues to closely monitor the production lines and evaluate options to meet our strike fighter requirements.”

POTENTIAL ORDER NOTICE WITHDRAWN

Richard Gilpin, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for air programs, told Reuters last month the Navy was looking at options for buying more F/A-18 jets, but no decisions had been made. U.S. officials are also talking with foreign buyers about orders that could extend production.

The Navy in October flagged a possible order of up to 36 more F/A-18 fighters or EA-18G electronic attack planes in fiscal 2015, but later withdrew the notice on federal procurement website since there is no funding for more planes.

Navy officials say their talks about possible additional purchases of the Boeing fighter do not reflect any wavering of their commitment to the Lockheed F-35 program, since both fighter jets are intended to operate together for decades.

But some F-35 backers worry that the Navy’s proposal to deal with across-the-board spending cuts required under sequestration by pausing production of the F-35 C-model for two years could unravel that part of the F-35 program, especially if the Navy continues to buy Boeing jets in the meantime.

A two-year delay in order could push pack initial use of the F-35C until 2021, said one former Navy official. “At some point, depending on how the F-35 carrier variant and unmanned planes come along, they may just not need the F-35C anymore.”

The $392 billion F-35 JSF, the Pentagon’s biggest arms program, has seen a 70 percent increase in costs over initial estimates and repeated schedule delays, but U.S. officials say the program has made progress in recent years.
 

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"Boeing looks to Congress to fund fighters after Navy skips orders"
By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:05pm ES

Source:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/14/us-boeing-fighter-idUSBREA1D01O20140214

Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N) is mounting a last-ditch campaign to convince U.S. lawmakers to buy more fighter jets and stave off a shutdown of a St. Louis production line after the U.S. Navy failed to fund the jets.

The Navy's fiscal 2015 budget plan omits funding for any extra F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or EA-18G Growlers, according to several sources familiar with the issue. The White House is due to submit its 2015 budget request to Congress on March 4.

While the 2015 budget does not include funding for shutting down the F/A-18 production line in St. Louis after 2016, the Navy plans to add such termination funding to its 2016 budget, said one of the sources, who could not speak publicly.

That spells bad news for Boeing, which needs additional orders from the U.S. Navy to continue producing the fighter planes, according to industry executives and analysts.

Navy officials have said they would like to keep buying Super Hornets and Growlers, but cannot afford to do so given tough budget pressures that have already forced the service to propose eliminating one of 11 U.S. aircraft carriers.

That means Boeing must now appeal to U.S. lawmakers to fund an additional batch of Growlers to keep the line running for one more year while it continues to hunt for foreign sales.

The program has strong support among lawmakers but a dearth of funding for aircraft carriers and other priorities may complicate Boeing's efforts. Many traditional defense hawks have also died or left Congress, and many current lawmakers are more worried about deficits than maintaining defense spending.

Boeing officials declined comment, noting that the fiscal 2015 budget has not been released. But the company is already airing advertisements on a local Washington radio station and its lobbyists are working their connections on Capitol Hill.

Boeing contributed $1.3 million to individual lawmakers and political action committees in 2013 and spent $15.2 million on lobbying efforts, ranking as the 13th biggest spender, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Boeing's F/A-18 program manager Mike Gibbons has said the company needs to build about two planes a month to keep costs down, which would require extra funding of at least $$1.2 billion, but Boeing is studying possible savings by combining the F/A-18 and F-15 production line, which runs through 2018.

Industry experts note Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) builds just one F-16 a month at its Texas plant and say Boeing may be able to maintain F/A-18 production at a lower rate.

Boeing remains in competition for orders from Canada and Denmark, and sees other prospects in the Middle East. But none of those foreign orders are likely to materialize in time to maintain the St. Louis F/A-18 line past the end of 2016.

Boeing and U.S. officials had hoped to land a big F/A-18 order from Brazil, but Brazil in December said it would buy the Gripen built by Sweden's Saab (SAABb.ST) after documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed U.S. spying on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Brett Lambert, a former top Pentagon official, said lawmakers still viewed F/A-18 purchases as a hedge against possible delays in the F-35 fighter jet program, although he said the program was more stable than just a few years ago.

Proponents of additional F/A-18 purchases argue that the F-35 has not completed development, and that continued issues with its software development could delay the ability of the Marine Corps to start using the plane in combat from mid-2015.
 

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"End In Sight For The Hornet Line - Or Is It?"
Feb. 15, 2014 - 03:45AM |
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS

Source:
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140215/DEFREG02/302150023

WASHINGTON As things stand, when the new US defense budget is revealed next month a significant line item that has been a staple for more than four decades will be missing.

No new versions of the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet strike fighter, or its EA-18G Growler electronic attack cousin, will appear in the US Navy’s budget request, either for domestic or foreign use. The move has been planned for some time, but is likely to surprise many veteran defense observers — and alarm others.

Some in Congress are hoping to continue production, and lawmakers added $75 million in the 2014 defense appropriations bill in advance procurement for 22 new planes. Boeing, maker of the aircraft, is eager to sell the Navy more EA-18Gs, but it remains to be seen if the money will be spent that way.

“This is a decision that will be driven more by budget availability now than anything else,” observed Mark Gunzinger, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment in Washington. “I’m seeing, with the exception of a number of stalwart supporters for defense spending, a general lack of interest on the part of Congress in defense.”

The Navy would not comment on its plan for the advanced procurement funds, but Boeing did.

“A near-term decision to include Super Hornets or Growlers in the fiscal 2015 budget is critical to preserve the future of naval aviation and the US industrial base,” the company said in a statement. “Our Navy customer would need to address questions related to future budgets.”

Since its inception as the Hornet in the 1970s, the F/A-18 has populated the decks of US aircraft carriers, first as the Hornet — which replaced scores of F-14 Tomcats and A-6 Prowlers — and later as the F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet, which in turn supplanted earlier 18s. In recent years the EA-18G Growler electronic attack variant has become ever more important, replacing older EA-6B Prowlers.

But with the last block buy orders in 2014, the Navy will have 563 Super Hornets and 138 Growlers, and that’s all the service wants for its 10 carrier air wings.

Boeing’s plant in St. Louis, Mo., will remain busy producing the aircraft until late 2016 when, at current production rates and barring no further orders, the line will close — an event that will have repercussions around the country. According to Mike Gibbons, Boeing’s top executive for F/A-18 and EA-18 production, 90,000 full-time jobs around the US are “fully dependent” on Super Hornet/Growler production, representing an economic impact of $6 billion annually.

Boeing and its top partner Northrop Grumman produce four new aircraft per month. In about a year, Gibbons said, the rate is likely to drop to three aircraft, with a chance the rate could drop to two — the minimum sustainable rate. As the line slows, the number of jobs dependent on the aircraft will shrink as well, he said, down to about 60,000 jobs.

Slowing the production rate would give Boeing more time to convince US supporters to buy more aircraft, or find foreign buyers — an increasingly thin market.

Boeing missed out last year on the Brazilian FX-2 fighter program, a long, tough campaign eventually won by Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen. For more than a decade, Boeing had aimed to garner the contract, which would have included 36 F/A-18s.

The company is offering the Super Hornet to Denmark, which plans to formally seek requests for proposals this summer for a potentially $5 billion program to replace its fleet of F-16 fighters. Other potential customers include Kuwait, Canada and — further down the road — Malaysia.

For the US, Boeing sees its Growler has having the best chance for continued procurement.

“As the electronic attack platform, there’s nothing like it in the fleet, nor is anything like it planned in near-term future budgets,” Gibbons said Feb. 14. “It’s a broad-band electronic attack platform that has electronic and attack capability.”

Australia, which is buying 24 two-seat F/A-18Fs, announced in May it would purchase 12 Growlers – the first foreign customer for the aircraft. No further orders, however, are anticipated at this time.

“I don’t see any foreign orders right now to keep the line going after 2016,” Gunzinger said.

The potential end of F/A-18 production comes as the two other long-running US fighter programs, General Dynamics’ F-16 and Boeing’s F-15, are winding down. If all three programs end, it would leave the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as the only US strike aircraft still in production.

“That is a significant industrial base question,” observed Gunzinger. “Do we want to have more than one company capable of designing and producing sophisticated combat aircraft such as future fighters?”

The issue is larger than a focus on just one plane, he said. “This is a strategic issue, an industrial base issue. Something that the country needs to ask ourselves, do we want to go down this path? I think it’s rather remarkable that all three are ending their production lines within a few years of each other.”

Gibbons, asked about his confidence that further US orders would come, demurred.

“I don’t want to speculate on a confidence level,” he said. “We’re going to let the ‘15 budget process play out. We think there’s a lot of opportunity for jets to get debated.”
 

sferrin

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If it's a question of industrial base I'd FAR rather keep the Eagle line open and let the Hornet line die.
 

Triton

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sferrin said:
If it's a question of industrial base I'd FAR rather keep the Eagle line open and let the Hornet line die.

Would the Air Force or the Air National Guard want new produced F-15s or the F-15 Silent Eagle?
 

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Triton said:
sferrin said:
If it's a question of industrial base I'd FAR rather keep the Eagle line open and let the Hornet line die.

Would the Air Force or the Air National Guard want new produced F-15s or the F-15 Silent Eagle?
Allies might down the road. Certainly the F-15 has done better on the export market than the Super Hornet.
 

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"Boeing remains confident in additional F/A-18 orders"
By: Jon Hemmerdinger
Washington DC Feb 18, 2014

Source:
http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-remains-confident-in-additional-fa-18-orders-395891/

It's crunch time for Boeing's F/A-18 production line, with the company needing to secure orders in fiscal year 2015 to avoid a possible production shut down at the end of 2016.

Despite being short on time, Boeing remains outwardly confident, citing interest by foreign customers and a need by the US military for 50 to 100 additional electronic attack aircraft.

Boeing insists the F/A-18, particularly the new Advanced Super Hornet, is proven, affordable and able to counter threats for decades to come, making it an attractive alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Boeing’s vice president of the F/A-18 programme Mike Gibbons tells Flightglobal he sees “multiple opportunities” for orders by the US government in its fiscal year 2015 budget, the first draft of which is due out in early March.

"We can see a future that keeps us in production beyond 2020," he says. "There is a lot of opportunity domestically with the US Navy, but also internationally with a lot of different customers."

Not everyone is so confident.

“I’m not terribly optimistic,” says analyst Richard Aboulafia, vice president of consulting firm Teal Group.

Aboulafia said last week at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Washington state that Boeing must decide by March whether to order the long-lead time materials it will need to keep the production line going post 2016.

Also, a desire by the Defense Department for more aircraft “might not matter” as defence spending dries up, says Aboulafia, adding that Boeing might consider keeping the F/A-18 line running with company money until more orders materialise.

Gibbons says its too early to consider self-funding the line with so-called “white tails”, which are unsold aircraft built on spec.

"Certainly we would not have to make that decision through the course of this year,“ he says.

But Boeing notes the US government’s recently-passed fiscal year 2014 budget includes $75 million for “advanced procurement” of F/A-18 long-lead materials like forgings for bulkheads and landing gears.

That’s no guarantee of an order, but it “helps take the immediate heat off,” Boeing says.

In addition, the company says it will “continue to fund long-lead items if it makes good business sense.”

CLOCK IS TICKING

By spring of 2015, Boeing expects to build the last of 161 aircraft ordered by the US government as part of a multi-year contract. That order included 103 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 58 E/A-18G Growlers, the electronic attack version of the fighter.

Then Boeing begins building the final 47 aircraft on order: 11 Super Hornets from a supplemental US government buy in 2013, 24 Growlers funded in the fiscal year 2014 budget and 12 Growlers ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force.

Without further orders, the line will likely shut in late 2016 when the last aircraft are completed, Boeing says.

“A near-term decision to include Super Hornets or Growlers in the FY 2015 budget is critical,” Boeing says.

BUDGET BATTLE

Boeing is waiting to see if funds for more aircraft are included in President Barack Obama’s budget proposal, expected in early March.

If not, Boeing says it will lobby Congress.

"This will play out through the whole year,” Gibbons says.

And he insists Boeing has a strong case.

The Defense Department needs more Growlers to protect all its aircraft, and the F/A-18 can provide “risk mitigation” during development of Lockheed Martin’s delayed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Gibbons says.

Also, Super Hornets cost $52 million with engines, avionics and weapons systems, while Growlers cost about $8 to $9 million more – far less than the F-35, according to Gibbons.

Aboulafia has estimated F-35s cost roughly $135 million, while Lockheed said last year the cost was “under $100 million” and will reach $85 million by 2019.

Operating costs are also less — about $16,000 to $17,000 per flight hour, says Gibbons.

By comparison, in May 2013 the US Air Force estimated its F-35As would cost $32,000 hourly.

ADVANCED SUPER HORNET

Gibbons says improvements will ensure the F/A-18 "outpaces threats" beyond 2030.

The Advanced Super Hornet, which is still being developed and tested, has better engines, avionics and weapons systems, including an upgraded radar and improved infrared search-and-track abilities, Boeing says.

It has a belly-mounted "enclosed weapons pod" that can carry 2,500lb (1,134kg) of munitions and external "conformal fuel tanks that can hold 3,500lb of fuel.

Those and other changes give the Advanced a combat radius of more than 700nm (1,296km), 130nm more than the Super Hornet, and half the radar signature, Boeing says.

Though the company does not say how the radar signature compares to the F-35’s, it insists the Advanced will be “highly effective” against the same air-to-air and air-to-surface threats faced by F-35s during the opening phases of future conflicts.

In addition, Boeing argues stealth is "perishable" due to improvements in aircraft detection.

That's why electronic attack protection from the Growler "is essential to future...combat operations," Boeing says.

Boeing first flew an F/A-18 with some of the improvements in August 2013 and has additional tests scheduled this year.

New aircraft can be purchased as Advanced models, or existing Block II F/A-18s can be upgraded, according to Boeing.

LOOKING OVERSEAS

Boeing thinks more foreign orders are also possible, potentially from Denmark, which is evaluating F/A-18s to replace its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16s.

The company also hopes to finagle orders out of Canada, which had planned to acquire 65 F-35s but is reportedly now considering other options.

Boeing says it expects to learn of Canada’s decision early this year.

Other prospects include

Malaysia, Kuwait and other Middle East countries, says Boeing.
 

Triton

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sferrin said:
Allies might down the road. Certainly the F-15 has done better on the export market than the Super Hornet.

Isn't the F-15 production line in pretty good shape from the order of 84 F-15SA fighters from Saudi Arabia?
 

Triton

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Published on May 1, 2014

By jamming enemy radar, the EA-18G Growler helps aircrews reach their target without being detected. The Growler is an elite electronic attack aircraft that helps save lives. Learn more about how Boeing innovates at buildsomethingbetter.com

http://youtu.be/n-rL9MG79bA
 

Triton

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"Boeing plots hybrid Super Hornet/Growler "
by Stephen Trimble

Washington DC
20:30 25 Jun 2014

Source:
http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-plots-hybrid-super-hornetgrowler-future-400766/

Boeing is formulating a concept for a hybrid variant of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet equipped with the electronic signal detection capabilities of the EA-18G Growler as it seeks to attract orders for new aircraft and upgrades to older models.

The resulting aircraft would resemble an E/A-18G that lacks ALQ-99 jamming pods for electronic attack, preserves the ALQ-218 electronic receiver and adds weapons now only carried by the F/A-18E/F, says Boeing vice-president Mike Gibbons.

“That hybrid just starts with the simple notion of take the sensor suite of the Growler and move it to a basically strike platform and then you grow that platform to take advantage of the fact that you can now see anybody that’s emitting,” Gibbons says.

The growth capabilities would be the addition of a long-range infrared search and track sensor and new air-to-air tracking modes for airborne systems.

Gibbons has recently taken charge of Boeing’s F-15 but previously led the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G programmes.

As Gibbons briefed a group of reporters on both programmes in St. Louis, Missouri on 24 June, the hybrid Super Hornet/Growler concept emerged as he explained why Boeing is so confident that it can extend production of the combined production line for several years despite the current backlog running out at the end of 2016.

Last October, the US Navy prematurely released a draft solicitation document to buy up to 36 more E/A-18Gs, then withdrew the document after it gained attention. Instead, the USN tacked an order for 22 more E/A-18G onto the top of a wish list of unfunded priorities sent to Congress for Fiscal 2015. Congress has met the navy’s request half-way, with the House of Representatives adding 12 E/A-18Gs to next year’s appropriations bill. The Senate has yet to move on its version of the budget bill.

If the House version prevails, the added 12 E/A-18Gs would be combined with previous orders to keep the Boeing assembly line running at an optimal rate of two per month until the end of 2016.

The F/A-18E/F has recently lost bids for fighter deals in India and Brazil, but Gibbons says he remains optimistic that Boeing can attract enough new orders to keep reduction going until after 2020.

“There are a lot of countries flying legacy jets that are getting old – old from a capability standpoint and they need to upgrade to something like this,” Gibbons says, adding, “or old from a fatigue life and they need to be replaced.”

The hybrid concept comes on top of a broad range of upgrades that Boeing has previously proposed with the Advanced Super Hornet.

The upgrades include adding features such as conformal fuel tanks to extend the range, a podded weapons bay to reduce the aircraft’s radar signature and additional sensors and weapons
 

phrenzy

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As an an Australian I never understood the decision to go for the hornet instead of the Eagle/strike Eagle.
I always figured it had something to do with the overlap with the f-111 or possibly that in our region it was more likely to operate along side carrier launched aircraft but capable as it is you give up a lot buying carrier aircraft when you don't use carriers. I know the f-15 isn't optimised for maratime interdiction which is a big deal for Australia. I suppose buying strike Eagles might send a bad message to Indonesia like the f-111s did but we lost a lot when we retired them and went solely to Hornets.

Everything I've heard locally though suggests that from the highest political levels (dating back to 2001) JSF has always had priority and they ate pretty determined to stay the course. I'm pretty sure the last few super Hornets we bought a while ago are going to be it until we get the f-35. I think Boeing might be trying to put a brave face on for shareholders rather than saying anything very serious when they claim there might be a few hundred Million in sales waiting for them here.
 

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According to Wikipedia:

F-15 could destabilise Australia's region.
F-16 was unreliable and inferior and was single engine.
Mirage 2000 was inferior to US aircraft.
Panavia Tornado had limited air to air capabilities.

The Hornet had decent kinematics & manoeuvrability had a good radar, could carry newer missiles and was structurally tougher which meant there were likely to be fewer issues landing at bare bases.
 

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phrenzy said:
As an an Australian I never understood the decision to go for the hornet instead of the Eagle/strike Eagle.

The F-15 was a RAAF favourite going-in to the competition, but there was a concerted effort by the other services to de-emphasise the air superiority role. Apparently air defence could be handled by missiles... and so the aircraft should be heavily strike / attack.

There were budget issues with the RAAF at the time so they had to condede to this in order to 'borrow' funding from the other services to cover the cost of the program.
 

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That's interesting, my girlfriends father was in the army in an air defence unit (the angel rapers they called themselves) just after the withdrawl from Vietnam when they were switching over from artillery to missiles through the early 80's. I'd be curious to know how he would evaluate how realistic missile based air defence was at that time without air cover. I suppose while they had the f-111 they didn't need strike Eagles and they didn't really need f-15 if it's just about air superiority as I would agree it isn't a high priority for domestic air defence here (I mean what are we defending against? ).

Just seems a shame since we spend so much and keep coming up second best. Not that the (super) hornet isn't a great aircraft but if your only going to have one fighter with no flat tops it wouldn't be my first choice.

The point about the structural integrity is well taken though. I know they had a lot of trouble and expended a lot of time and effort stitching up f-111s with boron patches and the like.

If your not landing hornets on flight decks I imagine they should last a very long time. I'd be curious how long they are planning on using the hornet and lightning concurrently.

Anyhow to use an Australianism I think someone should get on the phone to Boeing and "tell thenm they're dreaming".
 

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But is the F-16 still unreliable? i've never heard about a Dutch F-16 crash... And why would the F-15 destabilise?
 

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Flight from 1977 has an oblique reference to the politicking around the role of the Australian Mirage replacement

The latest defence white paper in Australia indicates that the role has not yet been decided and it is not known whether the choice will fall on an air-superiority type, a multi-role aircraft or a mixture of fighters and attack aircraft .

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1977/1977%20-%200017.html

but it was quite vicious at the time.

Also this interesting snippet from 1975:

The Australian Government has so far not taken up McDonnell Douglas's offer of F-15 subcontracts (see Flight, February 21, page 251). The proposed contract would guarantee the Melbourne Government Aircraft Factory a run of 79 forward fuselages to cover tooling costs of $A8 million. Further work would probably depend on an RAAF order for F-15s.

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1974/1974%20-%200552.html
 

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malipa said:
But is the F-16 still unreliable? i've never heard about a Dutch F-16 crash... And why would the F-15 destabilise?

The f-111 was bought with the idea quietly rattling around in the background that it was nuclear capable and might serve as a very basic light strategic bomber (or more ordinary long range precision strike aircraft as intended). It was never to loudly talked about but it was obvious to everyone that the only regional power it would be useful against is Indonesia. If they started doing silly things with nuclear reactors it gave Australia a capability to do an Osirak style raid.
At the time of the decision to buy f-111 (YEARS before delivery) they didn't care as much about what Indonesia thought. By the time of the f/a-18 buy the idea of regional proliferation had calmed right down and they had also started to think about how the Indonesians might feel about having a capability that could appear directly aimed at them. If they weren't going to pursue a bomb or other silly projects why maintain a capability that isn't needed but will make them hostile?

Not that the f-15 would have been a major threat in its initial form but I'm certain they were mindful of that. Anything too clever with the range to get from Northern Australia to jakarta would be politically indelicate. Even outside of the strike role it could have prompted some friction and a mini arms race for air superiority capability (such probably would have pushed them further towards the soviets).

I suppose today it would be like picking a new mig-29 sub type over an su-27 (or more obviously an su-34), they send slightly different messages.
 

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The Super Hornet buy reasoning is quite simple. First there was an initial need for a bridging capability and despite some pointing to the F-35 delays as being the sole reason, there was just as much pressure driven from the F-111 side. From the moment the USAF decided to retire their F-111s in the late 1990's, the RAAF's were on a short tenure - many people don't realise/accept just how much the RAAF relied on also having the USAF support base to lean upon. This is not to say the Australian industry/support base etc were not capable but rather the fact of being the sole operator of a very small fleet that are increasingly showing their age starts to become prohibitively expensive. An effort was made to keep them going but even from the early 2000's some were starting to show significant fatigue issues. There were some looks at F-15Es around this time, though these were not pursued for various reasons.

Now as to why the F/A-18Fs were selected. Firstly it was their perceived commonality with the "Classic Hornets" already in service. And before anyone points out the differences, remember that it is politicians with little aerospace/defence knowledge who need to be convinced of the buy - it is much easier to push through a decision if one says "sir, these are very common to the existing aircraft…". That said though, and going back to the "bridging capability" issue: the systems within the Super Hornet provide a good bridging capability to the F-35. For example, the APG-79 provides a good bridge to the APG-81; the F414 provides a good bridge to the F-135 etc. In fact, probably more than any other platform available, the Super Hornet provides a good step up to the F-35.

The final issue, and one that has changed (though not for she who predicted this would be the case ;)): the Super Hornets were initially planned only for a 10yr operational lie with the RAAF. Therefore any major servicings etc would be avoided. That has of course changed though and the aircraft will be kept in service much longer. As we move forward though, I think you will see the Growlers become increasingly important and the "bomber" Super Hornets less so. That said though, you will not see any more of either ordered.
 

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In what way could Australia attack Jakarta? Their aircraft don't even come close to having enough range... They would need to start with landfall after a bombardment of the navy...
 

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malipa said:
In what way could Australia attack Jakarta? Their aircraft don't even come close to having enough range... They would need to start with landfall after a bombardment of the navy...

Taking off somewhere in the far north west (if tensions rose to the point where something like this was being considered I'm sure a appropriate continental or possibly closer Island base would be established) I'm pretty confident an Eagle with drop tanks would do it with one refueling on the way there and one on the way back (close enough to Australia to be relatively safe) and jakarta is about as far away as anything in Indonesia you might be targeting so everything else would be closer. Even easier for an aardvark.

I don't think that was ever realistically going to happen but there seems to be a deliberate policy of not buying anything with strategic rather than tactical value. Of course strike Eagles aren't really strategic aircraft but compared to super bugs or anything else operated by ociania/SEA countries it is.

I'm not saying that was a major factor in the decision to buy super Hornets but seeing the SEA arms build up of the last 5-10 years you can see that it wasn't out of the realm of possibly for buying strike Eagles to have triggered Indonesia to try and buy some longer range strike/bomber aircraft of its own.
 

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Is Indonesia still considered a military threat to Australia? Or is the military threat posed by Indonesia largely seen as the view of extremists?
 

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Is the ALG-218(v)2 on the growler a Radar Warning Receiver or does it belong to a separate category?
 

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The reality of a military confrontation hasn't been seriously considered for at least 20 years so for serious commentators and the military proper it's not much of a factor. As you say, it's extremists (jamia islamia) that occupy most of the real consternation with regards to Indonesia (that and People smugglers for the Navy).
In the public mind there is always a small number of people who have trouble accepting that a country with a history of military dictatorship and 10 times our population in 1/10th the land don't pose a threat or want a land grab but it isn't something that gets much traction now days.

Mostly it was a cold war thing when they were flirting with the USSR. There was this idea that in the event of major conventional or nuclear war Australia would fare (relatively) well and that the world, particularly people in the region, might see Australia as the promised land (lifeboat Australia) and with our big allies half a world away and embroiled in their own problems we would be on our own. With the collapse of world trade Indonesia would have trouble feeding it's population (or for the more paranoid Indonesia might just see an opportunity) and see Northern Australia as an easy get. Similar but less immediate concerns (silly in retrospect) were held about China. But that was part of the drive for nukes here is the 50s-70s, the idea that with our very small population we needed "weapons that would allow one man to hold off a hundred or a thousand or more".

It seems a little crazy now but they had their own flirtations with a nuclear weapons program and when they bought several tu-16 it made a little more sense.
 

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Triton said:
Is Indonesia still considered a military threat to Australia? Or is the military threat posed by Indonesia largely seen as the view of extremists?

Australia regards Indonesia like the US regards China; not an aggressor, but a potential threat should things really become sour.

In regards to the classic Hornets and F-35A's; Australia is officially set to have a full 72 F-35A's by 2023, at which time all classic Hornets will have been phased out. That said, there's always the chance that JSF FRP may be delayed for some reason, in which case we may have to see the F/A-18A's hanging on by their bootstraps for a couple / few extra years. IIRC, they have a service life until something like 2025, which gives a little leeway, but is pretty damn close.

malipa said:
But is the F-16 still unreliable? i've never heard about a Dutch F-16 crash... And why would the F-15 destabilise?

The F-16 is quite reliable these days, but early variants of the F100 engine weren't that reliable, and the FBW control software wasn't perfect either; remember that the decision to buy Hornets was made only 3 years after the F-16's introduction.

The F-15 concern was because it could be seen as an aerial supremacy weapon that could dominate out over foreign skies (far easier than the Hornet or F-16, etc). Having the F-111 already gave Australia a powerful bargaining tool, but some minds in Indonesia, etc could always potentially consider that the F-111 was defenceless against fighters and it was also a tool for Australia to protect our sovereign waters from threats other than SEA nation vessels. F-15s however had no purpose other than to kill enemy fighters, and so F-15s escorting F-111s could have Australia to dominate any nation in our region.
 

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Dragon029 said:
...there's always the chance that JSF FRP may be delayed for some reason, in which case we may have to see the F/A-18A's hanging on by their bootstraps for a couple / few extra years. IIRC, they have a service life until something like 2025, which gives a little leeway, but is pretty damn close.

Trust me, the RAAF's classic Hornets are not going to be able to kept in service any longer than 2022 without major expense. In fact, they start hashing out around 2018 in order to even make that.

Dragon029 said:
F-15s however had no purpose other than to kill enemy fighters,


Errr...F-15Es definitely had more than A2A capability. Moreover, even the early F-15As had A2G capability although it was not typically used.
 

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Trust me, the RAAF's classic Hornets are not going to be able to kept in service any longer than 2022 without major expense. In fact, they start hashing out around 2018 in order to even make that.

I'm aware of the 2018 start, but is the 2022 from data? I can understand if they just have to share airframes between more pilots a little more, but I could've sworn I'd read a mid-2020 end of service life for the Hornets.

Errr...F-15Es definitely had more than A2A capability. Moreover, even the early F-15As had A2G capability although it was not typically used.

F-15Es didn't exist yet; F-15As obviously did have an A2G capability, but again, it was limited and not exactly the focus of the mission; my statement about the F-15 was in regards to it's overall purpose - even a fictional F-15 with zero capability to carry A2G munitions is still capable of strafing targets with its gun. It was meant to be like a statement that 'the A-10 has no purpose other than to pop tanks' (even though it's also designed to hit soft targets and also take down helicopters; or other aircraft if they're piloted really poorly or are unarmed and slow).
 

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Dragon029 said:
I'm aware of the 2018 start, but is the 2022 from data? I can understand if they just have to share airframes between more pilots a little more, but I could've sworn I'd read a mid-2020 end of service life for the Hornets.


I assure you that my information is correct. It comes directly from those RAAF personnel responsible for the decisions. This has been carefully looked at and considered for a number of years now. To try to keep the classics in service any longer (even for an extra 6mths) will be prohibitively expensive.
 

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donnage99 said:
Is the ALG-218(v)2 on the growler a Radar Warning Receiver or does it belong to a separate category?

It's ALQ-218, and it is much more capable than a warning receiver -- it's a full-fledged electronic intelligence collection tool.
 

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[quote autaor=malipa link=topic=20938.msg225705#msg225705 date=1404294739]
Is the F-15 a better fighter than the F-16? And why?
[/quote]

They both have some excellent qualities but have different capabilities, in the context Of the f/a-18 acquisition the f-15's much longer range and heavier load carrying capabilities made it a more potent weapon. For the narrower individual dog fighting air superiority role the f-16 is excellent, it's price which allows you to buy them at a rate of 2 to 1 against Eagles. For a large airforce like the USAF this means big numbers and the ability to use f-16 for what it's good at and free up f-15 for more complex duties. For a small airforce like the RAAF though where they would likely have less than 100 fighters, regardless of type, having 60 f-15s would result in significant difference in capabilities compared to 90 f-16s. It would certainly represent a very different posture (and VERY different percieved posture) from countries in the SEA region.

In a very basic and not wholly accurate way the f-16 is more defensive and the f-15 more offensive.
 

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Triton

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"Cyber missions could fuel Boeing EA-18G orders: U.S. Navy chief"
WASHINGTON | By Andrea Shalal

September 3, 2015

Source:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/03/us-usa-navy-boeing-idUSKCN0R32I320150903

The Pentagon is evaluating whether potential cyber missions could drive demand for additional Boeing Co (BA.N) EA-18G electronic attack jets, or Growlers, the top U.S. Navy officer told Reuters on Thursday.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said any decisions about additional orders of Growlers should be included in the Pentagon's budget request for fiscal 2017, since Boeing will shut the production line after all orders have been fulfilled.

Greenert said it was imperative to map out any additional orders now, given the high cost of restarting production once the line closed.
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"This is kind of a no-fail deal," he said in an interview. Boeing was pursuing several other foreign orders, but he did not believe they were large enough to sustain production of the jets.

Boeing's combined St. Louis production line for F/A-18E/F fighter jets and the EA-18G Growlers was slated to shut in 2017, until Congress added funding for 12 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to the fiscal 2016 budget plan, and Boeing signed a deal to sell 28 of the jets to Kuwait.

If those orders are confirmed, the line should remain open well into 2019, Boeing has said.

Greenert, who will retire and be replaced by Admiral John Richardson on Sept. 18, said the Navy still believed its planned purchase of 153 Growlers was sufficient, but more work was underway to assess the needs of other military services, as well as the possible use for cyber missions.

He said the Navy had asked the Pentagon's Cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office to evaluate the electronic warfare needs of the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps.

Navy officials had estimated that the two services might need about 30 more Growlers to meet their needs, according to sources familiar with the study, although both services had told Navy officials they planned to satisfy their requirements using the Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35 fighter jet. The sources requested anonymity because the study was incomplete.

Greenert said a department-wide review of electronic warfare needs had also revealed a possible need to outfit Growlers or other aircraft with special cyber "pods" or "nodes" that could be used for jamming or infiltrating enemy computer networks, and removing information.

That issue was still being evaluated by the military services, and would also include U.S. Cyber Command and the staff of the Joint Chiefs, he said, adding that he expected the fiscal 2017 budget proposal to provide clear answers about the number of jets needed.

Greenert said the Navy was watching for possible shortfalls of F/A-18E/F fighter jets on its aircraft carriers, given delays in the F-35 program and lengthy repair times for existing jets.

He said the Navy had made progress in speeding up repairs of older jets, which could limit the need for more Super Hornets. "I think we'll manage our way through that," Greenert said.

Boeing had no immediate comment.

Greenert said the Navy remained focused on improving cybersecurity after a major breach of the unclassified Navy-Marine Corp network last year, and would dedicate "hundreds of millions of dollars" to the effort, beginning in October.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Chang)
 

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http://www.reuters.com/article/us-boeing-fighter-exclusive-idUSKCN0VL2JK
 

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"US Navy Orders Five F/A-18E Super Hornets & Seven EA-18G Growlers From Boeing"
Published: Thursday, 02 March 2017 11:11

The U.S. Navy ordered seven Lot 40 EA-18G Growlers and five F/A-18E Super Hornet fighters from Boeing in a $678.6 million contract. The deal also includes associated airborne electronic attack kits, likely the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ). Raytheon's NGJ solution was selected by the U.S. Navy in 2013 to replace the legacy ALQ-99 systems used on the EA-18G airborne electronic attack aircraft.

Source:
http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/defence-news/2017/march-2017-navy-naval-forces-defense-industry-technology-maritime-security-global-news/4939-us-navy-orders-five-f-a-18e-super-hornets-seven-ea-18g-growlers-from-boeing.html
 

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"U.S. Navy Wants 130 More Super Hornets Over Next Five Years"
Apr 7, 2017 Lara Seligman | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

Source:
http://aviationweek.com/awindefense/us-navy-wants-130-more-super-hornets-over-next-five-years

The U.S. Navy wants to buy 130 additional Super Hornets over the next five years at a price of $13.6 billion as part of an effort to beef up its strike fighter...
 
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