| SIMI VALLEY, Calif.
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. Dec 3 The U.S. Navy plans
to divest its older model Boeing Co F/A-18 Hornet fighter
jets in coming years and hopes to buy dozens of F/A-18E/F Super
Hornets to deal with a shortfall of strike fighters aboard its
carriers, a Navy official said.
The plan, which is still being finalized, could be
implemented as early as part of the fiscal 2018 budget, said the
official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
"To decrease the strike fighter shortfall and to best
prepare future air wings for likely threats we will soon divest
from legacy Hornets, look to buy several squadrons worth of
Super Hornets and continue with efforts to bring on the F-35
carrier variant," said the official.
The Navy also plans to field and deploy a new unmanned
carrier-based refueling plane, the official said.
Sources familiar with Navy plans say delays in the fielding
of the carrier variant of the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35
fighter jet, longer-than-expected maintenance times for older
model Hornets, and higher usage rates have left the Navy facing
a shortfall of about 70 fighter jets in coming years.
If implemented, the plan would provide dozens of new orders
for Boeing and keep its St. Louis production line running for
several more years.
"We would welcome an opportunity to develop a plan, with the
Navy, that would allow us to continue providing the robust
capabilities of the Super Hornet well into the future," said
Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher.
The company had suffered a setback last month when Congress
failed to include 12 Super Hornets in the fiscal 2017 defense
authorization bill, opening a potential gap in the Boeing
production line until several foreign orders for Kuwait and
Canada are finalized. The $618.7 billion bill was passed Friday
by the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Senate is expected
to vote on the measure next week.
Navy officials say the jets could still be added to the
fiscal 2017 budget as part of a supplemental budget that
lawmakers are urging Republican President-elect Donald Trump to
submit after he takes office.
Republicans, who will control both houses of Congress and
the White House after Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20, see good
prospects for raising military spending levels and scrapping a
2010 law that imposed mandatory cost caps on defense spending.
The older model Hornets could be transferred to the Marine
Corps, which has faced its own maintenance issues, including a
lack of spare parts.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Nick Macfie)