The US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ceded to Pentagon advice and Congressional support and has approved a multi-year buy of 124 F/A-18E/F/G Super Hornets for the US Navy.
The contract, expected to be awarded in the near future, will reportedly see the aircraft acquired for at least 10 per cent less per unit, or a total of more than US$590m (A$675m) over the four year term, than if they had been ordered on a year-by-year basis because manufacturer Boeing is able to order components in larger numbers and provide greater stability to its St Louis workforce.
The order comes after more than two years of lobbying by Boeing and its political representatives, and completes the US Navy’s ‘program of record’ requirement for a total fleet of 515 Super Hornets and 114 EA-18G Growlers. “I commend Secretary Gates and Secretary (of the Navy) Mabus for seeing the light and moving forward with a multi-year contract,” Republican Missouri Representative Todd Akin said in a statement. “It is encouraging to see the Navy and DoD come to their senses on this issue, after I have spent two years arguing that a multi-year contract made sense on all fronts.”
But delays with the US Navy’s planned initial operating capability (IOC) of the F-35C JSF from 2014 to 2016 are believed to have been important in sealing the deal. The numbers of legacy F/A-18A-D ‘classic’ Hornets have been dwindling in recent years, with many analysts forecasting a shortfall in US Navy strike fighter numbers of more than 100 jets, or two full combat wings, in 2016/17.
The new order is reported to comprise 66 F/A-18E/Fs and 58 EA-18G Growlers, to be delivered between 2012 and 2015.