Navy Orders 78 Super Hornet Block III Strike Fighters
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Senior Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The production run of Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter just got a lot longer with news that the Navy has awarded to Boeing a $4 billion contract for 72 Super Hornets in a multiyear procurement (MYP) through fiscal 2021 plus six more for fiscal 2018.
Naval Air Systems Command on March 20 converted a “previously awarded advanced acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-firm-target multiyear contract,” a Boeing announcement said.
“This modification provides for the full-rate production and delivery of 78 F/A-18 aircraft, specifically 61 F/A-18E and 17 F/A-18F aircraft for fiscal years 2018 through 2021,” the announcement said. “This new multiyear contract benefits the U.S. Navy and Boeing by allowing both to schedule future production, and Navy officials estimate [the contract] saves a minimum of $395 million on this contract valued at approximately $4 billion.”
The contract “will provide significant savings for taxpayers and the U.S. Navy while providing the capacity it needs to help improve readiness,” Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18G programs, said in the announcement.
“A multiyear contract helps the F/A-18 team seek out suppliers with a guaranteed three years of production, instead of negotiating year to year. It helps both sides with planning, and we applaud the U.S. Navy on taking the appropriate steps needed to help solve its readiness challenges.”
Rear Adm. Shane Gahagan, program executive officer for Tactical Aircraft Programs, also weighed in.
“This multiyear purchase is a great illustration of employing team effort to drive out cost and maximize efficiency in government procurement,” Gahagan said in a March 20 Navy release. “This acquisition strategy secures cost savings to the Navy, and the contract provisions limit Navy liability while incentivizing the cost to the contractor.”
“The program office was able to achieve significant savings while equipping our warfighters with the best capability on an accelerated timeline,” Gahagan added. “This is how we keep pace with our adversaries.”
Navy officials said, “There also will be opportunities in fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021 to procure six more aircraft at the same reduced prices as those in MYP, via a variation in quantity.”
The Block III configuration of the 78 Super Hornets will include a reduced radar cross section and conformal fuel tanks, increasing range and freeing up pylons for weapons. The configuration also will add an advanced cockpit display, Tactical Targeting Network technology and Block II of the Infrared Search and Track sensor.
The aircraft will be delivered with a 10,000-flight-hour service life, compared to 6,000 hours for first-production Super Hornets. Boeing also will begin converting some existing Block II Super Hornets to Block III in the early 2020s — also extending the service life of these aircraft from 6,000 to 10,000 hours.
The Navy plans to equip one Super Hornet squadron in each carrier air wing with the Block III before beginning to convert a second squadron in each wing. The sea service also plans to order 36 more Super Hornets for the years 2022, 2023 and 2024 in quantities of 12 per year.