How Navy Will Buy Super Hornets
Is a Sticking Point for Lawmakers
House and Senate lawmakers agree that they want o buy more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for the
Navy, but their plans to do so are markedly different
and likely will draw some pointed debate during bicameral conference negotiations on the fiscal 2010
defense authorization bill later this year.
At issue is whether to approve another multiyear
contract with Boeing Co. for the carrier-based strike
fighters that would guarantee continued production
for the contractors and a low price for the Navy.
In their version of the defense authorization bill,
House lawmakers give the Navy the authority to pursue
another multiyear deal for the Super Hornets. They also
added a $108 million down payment for future F/A-18s,
along with approving the administration’s request for
nine Super Hornets and 22 EA- 18 Growler electronic
attack aircraft based on the same airframe.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, which traditionally has been more skeptical of committing
future congresses to funding military programs, opted
instead to authorize $560 million for nine more Super
Hornets than requested for next year.
“The problem is that it did not meet the threshold
for a multiyear,” namely a significant cost savings per
airplane, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin,
D-Mich., told reporters June 25. “It didn’t meet that
test in terms of savings.”
The Senate had not considered the committee-approved bill by press time, but planned to wrap up
work in July.
U.S. Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate
Armed Services Committee, left, and John McCain, R-Ariz.,
listen to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus deliver his opening
remarks for the fiscal 2010 budget request June 4. While
House lawmakers would give the Navy the authority to pursue another multiyear deal for F/A-18E/F Super Hornets,
Levin, McCain and their Senate colleagues have been
skeptical of the plan.
Either bill provides a boost to
Boeing, which has long argued that
buying more Super Hornets could
help mitigate the effects of a looming
strike fighter shortfall that will exist
within the Navy until 2025, when
the carrier-based version of the F- 35
Lightning II, also known as the Joint
Strike Fighter, comes fully online.
In terms of long-term stability,
authorization of another multiyear
is key. Boeing’s current multiyear
contract expires this year, although the Navy has long planned
to buy more Super Hornets over
the next three years through the
traditional annual procurement
But the Pentagon did not send
long-term defense budget plans to
Capitol Hill along with its yearly
budget request, calling into question its plans for the Super Hornet.
For fiscal 2010, the Pentagon
requested nine fewer Super Hornets than the Navy had once
SEAPOWER / AUGUST 2009