U.S. Navy To Receive Even More Super Hornets and Growlers
The U.S. Department of Defense's undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics on May 14 certified to Congress that the proposed third Super Hornet/Growler multiyear procurement (MYP) met statutory requirements, including substantial savings. With this certification in place, the contract should proceed to cover the purchase of 124 aircraft over Fiscal Year 2010 through 2013. The multiyear procurement ties Boeing into a fixed price, but also locks the government into a firm commitment. Cost savings over a traditional year-by-year procurement are said to be in the region of 10 percent, which the DoD has established as the threshold for approving MYPs over buying annual lots.
This contract brings F/A-18E/F Super Hornet procurement to 515, plus 114 EA-18G Growlers, by the time deliveries end sometime in late 2015. The new 124 aircraft comprise 66 F/A-18E/Fs and 58 EA-18Gs. There has been no cost announcement for the contract, although the Navy has requested $1.9 billion for its FY11 Super Hornet buy of 22 aircraft and $1.1 billion for 12 Growlers. The service plans to acquire 24 EA-18Gs and a single Super Hornet in FY12 and a final 25 F/A-18E/Fs in FY13.
Subsequently, in its mark-up of the defense authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee added a further eight Super Hornets, to bring the total to 132 new aircraft. Observers see this move as a way to plow back the savings achieved by the MYP into the Navy's fighter fleet.
Despite the new program, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps still face a tactical aircraft shortage that is scheduled to peak in 2017. The gap is predicted to be somewhere between 100 and 177 aircraft, depending on whether the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter enters service on schedule, which is late 2016 for the first deployment of the Navy's F-35C version.
Options include yet further Super Hornet purchases, although that is seen as undermining the Joint Strike Fighter program. A more likely option is a campaign to keep a portion of the “legacy” F/A-18C Hornet fleet flying to at least 2020.