Home » Aviation » Pentagon Asks Congress to Reverse Decision to Add 12 Super Hornets for Navy


Pentagon Asks Congress to Reverse Decision to Add 12 Super Hornets for Navy

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Kestrels of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137 launches at sunset from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on July 10, 2015. US Navy photo.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Kestrels of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137 launches at sunset from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on July 10, 2015. US Navy photo.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has asked Congress to remove the dozen Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets lawmakers added to the defense authorization bills, hoping that $1.15 billion could pay for other priorities.

In March, the Navy included the 12 fighter jets in its Unfunded Requirements List, which outlines the service’s lingering needs that were not included in the president’s budget request. In the document, the Navy states that “our legacy strike fighters (F/A-18A-D) are reaching end of life faster than planned due to use and wear. Improving the inventory of F/A-18F and F-35C aircraft will help reconcile a near term (2018-2020) strike fighter inventory capacity challenge, and longer term (2020-2035) strike fighter model balance within the carrier air wing. It will reduce our alliance on legacy-model aircraft which are becoming increasingly expensive and less reliable.”

And yet, a July “Department of Defense Conference Appeal” – sent to the House and Senate armed services committees as they go through the conference committee to negotiate a final version of the Fiscal Year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act – asks that Congress reverse its decision to add the 12 jets for the Navy.

“The additional $1,150.0 million added to the Senate authorization for the additional 12 F/A-18E/F aircraft unfunded requirement is not required” according to the document, originally obtained by InsideDefense.com.
“The F/A-18E/F is the premier operational strike fighter aircraft for the Department of the Navy. However, the F-35B is scheduled to be IOC in July 2015, with the F-35C IOC scheduled for August 2018. There is no validated requirement for additional F/A-18E/F. Keeping the F/A- 18E/F production line open is cost prohibitive for the Department. The Department recommends $1,150.0 million be redirected from this congressional enhancement to restore the congressional mark,” according to the document.”

The issue of the production line is a key one. The frames for both the Super Hornet and the F-18G Growler electronic warfare plane are built on the same production line. The Navy has said it has enough Growlers to meet its own jamming requirements, but it is unclear whether the military as a whole has enough to cover all joint engagements. The Navy has previously expressed interest in buying more Growlers to cover the electronic warfare needs of the whole force if additional money were provided to buy the aircraft.

However, that desire has not yet turned into a sales contract. As it stands, the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2015 Growler purchase was the last one for the line; an agreement to slow down the pace of production means Boeing will keep the line open until the end of 2017. After that, production for Growlers and Super Hornets would stop and the workforce would disperse, making a future restart of either program challenging, Dan Gillian, Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet and Growler program manager, told USNI News in March.

Gillian said in March that the company would need to decide by midyear – about now – whether or not to buy long lead materials for future Growlers or Super Hornets. Several countries are considering the Super Hornet, including Denmark and an unnamed country in the Middle East in the short term and Canada and Belgium farther down the road. If Congress goes through with the plan to buy additional Super Hornets, that would help keep the line open for future international sales or for a later decision to buy more Growlers.

  • CharleyA

    Seems to be a major disconnect between the DoN and OSD. In any event, this money is for an unfunded priority as requested by the Navy. If the need for the F/A-18s was not valid, then the appropriation should go away – it shouldn’t get thrown into another program (which is probably the JSF money pit that OSD favors.)

    • sferrin

      “If the need for the F/A-18s was not valid, then the appropriation should
      away – it shouldn’t get thrown into another program (which is probably
      the JSF money pit that OSD favors.)”

      If they’re not going to spend it on old planes they shouldn’t be able to spend it on new ones? On what planet does that make sense?

      • James B.

        The F-35 already is spending hundreds of billions, and clear waste is at least in the tens of billions, so that program doesn’t need any further spending.

        Absent pressure from OSD, the Navy would probably keep flying Super Hornets and back-burner the F-35 until the Air Force and Marines have worked out all the issues.

        • USNVO

          Total F-35 spending to date is not even remotely close to $100 billion dollars. The total cost estimate for development and procurement of over 2500 F-35s is less than $300 billion. If you are going to rant about cost, at least get your facts straight.

          • James B.

            According to the GAO Report “Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs [March 2015]” (GAO-15-342SP):

            Total program cost: $338.9 Billion (12/2013 estimate)
            Total Funding to complete: $239,6 Billion
            Total Quantities: 2,457

            So, we have already spent roughly $100 billion on a program that has experienced 75% per-unit cost growth, and over 100% growth in timeline.

      • Swiftright Right

        On the planet where all the American taxpayers live?

    • USNVO

      Not really, the SECDEF has said all along that he did not support any additional funds for any unfounded requests unless the full proposed defense department budget was funded first. They spend a lot of time prioritizing the budget, the SECDEF doesn’t want to muck it up with Congress cutting somewhere else to fund their pet programs that didn’t make the cut. I expect Congress doesn’t really care though.

      • CharleyA

        I agree its all about choices. Perhaps the committees don’t want to allow the SECDEF and OSD types who made their careers on JSF to err again, like you know, canceling the F-22 prematurely. Funny how choices can be limited once a production line is shut down.

        • USNVO

          I doubt it. More often as not, it comes down to spending in their district. Boeing and other companies have huge corporate footprints, people in Congress want to keep that happy. Witness that Congress kept adding C-17s, C-130Js, and other stuff the services didn’t ask for, and wanted to add LSX and CG modernizations that the service didn’t want in this cycle. Congress has their own priorities, more often as not they roughly align with DoD, but on the margins they are willing to tack on quite a bit of pork. What the SECDEF doesn’t want is to kill stuff that made the cut in place of pork. So it doesn’t really matter if

  • sferrin

    Wait, I thought the USN wanted more Hornets because it hates the F-35. 😉

    • Secundius

      @ sferrin.

      The USMC want’s the F/A-35B/C’s, not the Super Hornet. The SH is 25% larger overall, then the Hornet…

    • madskills

      I read the same thing. Hornets work, the F-35, maybe. If the Marines need a $300 million dollar plane for close air support, go for it, but not on the Army’s or Navy’s dime.

  • Thomas Barton JD

    THERE ARE MANY IN THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY WHO SEE THE F-35 AS AN EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE AIRCRAFT THAT POSES A THREAT TO THE SIZE OF THE CARRIER BATTLE GROUPS AND MAKES TIMELY FUNDING FOR THE SSBN-X VERY DIFFICULT. I HOPE PRESIDENT OBAMA IN HIS LAST 18 MONTHS WILL MAKE THE SSBN-X A PRIORITY AND THEREFORE IT WILL BOLSTER THE SUPER HORNET GOING TO DENMARK AND CANADA AS FULL SUPPORT FOR THE SSBN-X IS AN INDIRECT CONDEMNATION OF THE ASTRONOMICAL OPERATIONAL COSTS OF THE F-35. I SUPPORT THE SSBN-X AS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY AND I ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO RALLY FOR ITS TIMELY AND STRONG SUPPORT.

    • Tyler Baldwin

      Caps Lock is a pain isn’t it…

  • Earl Tower

    Boeing will be lobbying hard to keep the F18 line upon in one capacity or another. But if they Navy does not need the fighters, then cancel any consideration of the purchase and send they money to pay on the national debt.

  • Seburo

    Of course the DOD would do this to force the Wunderwaffe-35 upon the Navy. Most 4th Gen fighters already have more advanced versions of its technology except for the increasingly obsolete stealth.
    Congress will most likely ignore them.
    Canceling the W-35 will allow fast tracking of the LRS-B and the UCLASS. Both of which can easily do the W-35s Strike Job. The rest can be handled by upgraded F-15s, F-22s and Super Hornets.

  • Shut the F-18 Super Hornet production line down–and just get over it. The F-35 coming on line this year is a multiple assignment and versatile craft that can land and take off horizontally. It is also a stealth fighter, as is the F-22.

    • Secundius

      @ Dr. Billy Kidd.

      What would that accomplish, shutting-down a Manufacturer for 18-month to 2-years, too Retool and Retrain a Workforce on Assembly Line that’s not familiar with the End-Product. And also the Fact that the Companies in question. Are Rival Aircraft Manufacturers…

    • Tyler Baldwin

      All Aircraft take off an land horizontally 🙂

      Any way the aircraft is way over budget and still can’t hold a candle to the
      F-16’s capabilities, let alone the F/A-18E/F. You sir are the reason this aircraft even exists, you and your false hopes.

  • Franken

    DoD already has too much kit. Sustainment of another 12 aircraft not POM’d for creates a bogey in the out-years. Although jobs are placed at risk, Boeing doesn’t need this rather trivial business line, but they would like to be a viable tacair manufacturer. As for increased use of Hornets, fly less, make a smaller airwing, or fix the problem internal to navy. Don’t run our assets to ground…same goes for ships. A boost in navy potency would be the addition of a Predator-like, long endurance uav on carriers and amphibs. That answers most of our midterm strike and surv needs…cheaply.

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  • Rob C.

    Cutting somewhere else for something they may/maynot have asked for. I’d rather see them get the Hornets over F-35s, their less of plane than 18s. Just like Super Hornests are less than plane that the F-14Ds were. Crappier and Crappier.

    • Imladris18

      Different roles =/= “less of a plane.”

      Also, Kuwait just bought a bunch of Super Hornets which will keep the line open regardless, not sure why that’s not being mentioned anywhere. I want the Navy to purchase more, but the line won’t be shut down if the 12 US Supers Hornets aren’t ordered this year.

  • ..the Air force should consider purchasing the new Boeing/Saab T-X jet trainers in 2017? They are used for the Empire fighter jet training schools for NATO pilots, so why not American, also?

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