This post has been updated with a statement from Boeing.
The Navy issued Boeing $200 million to keep its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet production line humming ahead of a congressionally mandated 20 fighter buy, USNI News has learned.
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,” reads a Thursday Defense Department contract announcement.
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.
While the Navy is obligated to buy the fighters, the service has yet to execute the contracts for the Super Hornets. A legislative source told USNI News that the holdup had to do with who owned the technical data-rights for Super Hornet components for sustainment and repair.
In a statement to USNI News, Boeing said, “we are partnered with the U.S. Navy to complete the contract for Super Hornets to be delivered in the final year of new-build production. This award supports our supply chain doing the early work on Block III aircraft.”
Company officials have said in the past that the line is set to end in 2025, when the last eight American Super Hornets are built, though there are foreign sales cases. India is considering the French Dassault Rafale M and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III for a buy of 26 carrier fighters.
For its part, the Navy has been trying for the last several budget cycles to sundown Super Hornet production and instead direct funds into the development of its Next-Generation Air Dominance program, a family of manned and unmanned systems that would be centered around a manned F/A-XX fighter.