Boeing aims to keep making F/A-18 jets through 2020

Boeing aims to keep making F/A-18 jets through 2020

Boeing aims to keep making F/A-18 jets through 2020

Two F/A-18 Super Hornets fly above the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise in this handout photo courtesy of the US Navy. REUTERS photo

Boeing could keep building its Super Hornet fighter jet and a modified electronic attack version through 2020, the company said, given prospects for over 200 foreign sales and what it sees as up to 150 more sales to the U.S. Navy.

Michael Gibbons, Boeing vice president for F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, spent part of this week pitching additional sales of Boeing’s last fighter jet to congressional staffers in a triple-wide trailer packed with simulators, displays and souvenirs.

His mission is to safeguard funding for 21 EA-18G Growlers in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2014 budget, and underscore the advantages of the Super Hornet, for which Boeing has developed a package of upgrades aimed at making it more competitive with Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N) fifth-generation F-35 multirole fighter.

The F/A-18 is Boeing’s last fighter jet in production after it lost the F-35 contract to Lockheed in 2001. Boeing has sought to parlay delays and cost overruns on the F-35 program into more sales of its jets, but its efforts have taken on new urgency in recent years as F/A-18 production begins to wind down.

“It’s a make or break year for the F/A-18 and Boeing,” said Virginia-based defense consultant Jim McAleese. He said the company was scrambling to drum up more sales since the Navy’s current plans call for no further Super Hornet purchases.