Washington: The US Navy plans to increase the number of its strike fighters aboard its carriers by adding dozens of Boeing Co F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to its squadron.
The navy will also divest its older model F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets in the coming years, a navy official said.
The plan, being in the finalization process, could be implemented as early as part of the fiscal 2018 budget, added the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“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 intends to field and deploy a new unmanned carrier-based refueling plane, the source added.
The US Navy will be needing about 70 fighter jets in coming years due to 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, according to sources familiar with naval programs.
If the plan is implemented, Boeing would receive dozens of new orders, which means it can 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 received a setback last month after Congress decided not to include 12 Super Hornets in the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill.
The decision opened a potential gap in the Boeing production line until several foreign orders for Kuwait and Canada are finalized.
The $618.7 billion bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives on Friday, is expected to be voted on by the Senate next week.
Republicans, who will control both Congress and the White House following their victory in the November 8 election, hope to raise military spending levels and abolish a 2010 law that imposed compulsory caps on defense budget.