Navy Buys 17 Super Hornets in $1.1B Deal, Last Planned Contract Secures Technical Data Packages

March 22, 2024 5:23 PM
F/A-18 Super Hornets rest on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) as it transits the Pacific Ocean, Jan. 20, 2024. US Navy Photo

The Navy this week issued a $1.1 billion contract modification to Boeing for the final 17 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the technical data package in a win for the service following stalled negotiations last year.

“This modification procures 10 F/A-18F Lot 46 aircraft, as well as two F/A-18F and five F/A-18E Lot 47 aircraft,” the March 19 contract announcement reads.

“This modification also provides for Phase One of the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G technical data package including the operation, maintenance, installation and training data in support of F/A-18 and EA-18G sustainment efforts for the Navy.”

The aircraft will start delivering to the Navy at the end of 2026 and should finish by spring of 2027, according to a news release from Naval Air Systems Command.

“The technical data package was a crucial part of this negotiation; it is necessary for naval aviation’s operational readiness and post-production sustainment,” Rear Adm. John Lemmon, the program executive officer for tactical aircraft at NAVAIR, said in a statement. “The Super Hornet remains a predominant aircraft in the carrier air wing and will continue to provide significant combat capability into the 2040s.”

The contract award comes after negotiations between Boeing and the Navy over the final Super Hornet contract stalled last year due to rising price tags of the air frame. As of December, Boeing and the Navy had made progress in negotiating the rights to the technical data package, but were stuck on the high cost, USNI News previously reported. At the time, Boeing was quoting the Navy a price tag closer to the cost of an F-35C. For the Lot 15 through 17 contract between the Navy and Lockheed Martin, an F-35C costs approximately $102.1 million, Breaking Defense reported last year.

Lawmakers in prior fiscal years appropriated and authorized about $1.15 billion for the Super Hornets, meaning the service could buy 20 jets –12 purchased in FY 2022 and eight in FY 2023 – at the Navy’s $55.7 million per aircraft cost estimate. Those aircraft, which Congress added after the Navy tried to end the production line with a final buy in Fiscal Year 2021, were originally slated to deliver in 2025.

But the contract issued this week is only for 17 aircraft. In a statement in December, NAVAIR’s program manager for the F/A-18 and EA-18G office Capt. Michael Burks acknowledged that the service and Boeing were working on a contract for the “20 congressionally-added” jets.

It’s unclear whether a higher price tag is the reason for the Navy buying three fewer aircraft than planned. A request for comment with NAVAIR was not immediately returned.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee and chair of the tactical air and land forces subcommittee, in December said the Navy would not be able to buy the 20 aircraft due to inflation and the delayed contract.

“That contract was for 20 aircraft. It’s not going to be 20 aircraft, because we’ve taken so long to get to a final determination on that contract. The number of dollars will not go as far, but those aircraft need to be built,” Wittman said at the time.

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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