WASHINGTON — The US Navy’s case for requesting more Boeing-made F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters rests with two issues: requirements and replacements.
It’s been only two years since the US Navy quit buying F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters — part of a long-planned transition to the F-35C joint strike fighter — but a confluence of events has led to the new possibility that more attack aircraft could be ordered from Boeing.
When the US Navy submitted its fiscal 2015 request a year ago, it was the first budget since the 1970s that did not include some version of the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter. Procurement of F/A-18 E and F Super Hornets ended in 2013, and the last of 138 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare versions was included in the 2014 budget.
Congress, however, added an unplanned-for 15 Growlers in the 2015 budget, responding to a Navy unfunded priority list request to meet a joint tactical need. The move keeps open Boeing’s St. Louis production line an extra year, through 2017.
Now, a strike fighter shortfall the Navy thought it could manage by a variety of methods is being further exacerbated, and it seems highly likely that when the new unfunded requirements list is submitted to Congress by mid-March, it will include a request for new Super Hornets.