PENTAGON — The U.S. Navy and Boeing will have to hash out a new plan to continue producing the EA-18G Growler airborne electronic attack aircraft if the Congress does not provide enough money to buy 22 of the planes.
“We’ll see what the SASC [Senate Armed Services Committee] does and see what the total product looks like. We have the AP [advanced procurement] in hand and we’ll sit down with Boeing and‘say, ‘OK what makes sense here’,” Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.
“What were not going to do is incur additional cost to stretch these out artificially but if we can efficiently attach [these] to the existing contracts. That would be in our best interest.”
Boeing officials have said previously that the company needs orders for about 22 Growlers to keep the production line going at a minimal efficient rate.
This week, the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) approved a version of the Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bill that funded $1.01 billion for 12 of the 22 Growlers the Navy included in its unfunded requirements list submitted to Congress.
The Navy has said it would use the additional Growlers to beef up its existing electronic attack squadrons from five to seven aircraft.
Meanwhile, the fate of the Sikorsky MH-60S/R hangs in the balance with the fate of USS George Washington (CVN-73). The Pentagon had proposed to retire the nuclear-powered carrier rather than refuel the giant vessel in the fiscal year 2016 budget if the Congressionally-mandated sequestration cuts were to continue. The Congress has fiercely resisted efforts to inactivate George Washington.
“We will include that carrier in a build of the [Fiscal Year] 16 budget and the final [carrier] decision will be made in projection, with Congress, on FY 16 and out,” Stackley said. “Today, given there’s plenty of uncertainty, we are continuing with the H-60 line but there’s a long way to go between now and the end of the budget process.”
While the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal includes funding for 29 MH-60 aircraft, the aircraft’s five multi-year procurement contract runs through fiscal 2016. Should the Navy be granted permission to retire George Washington and its associated air wing, the service would not need additional helicopters next year.