The new federal budget contains a down payment of $75 million for 22 Boeing Co. Super Hornet fighters, and the money could give Chicago-based company a fighting chance to keep its Missouri-based production line open beyond 2016.
The Hazelwood plant is where the F-18 E/F Super Hornets and an electronics-jamming version of the aircraft called the E/A-18 Growler are built. The Navy had not requested the fighters, and in November canceled a notice for a possible order of up to 36 of the F/A-18 fighter jets.
In the current scenario, in which production has been scaled back from four aircraft per month to three aircraft per month, production would last only until the end of 2016. Navy officials will now have to decide this year whether to spend up to $2 billion on the Boeing planes in the event there are production delays for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is made by Lockheed Martin Corp.
Boeing is now looking to secure new fighter contracts in other countries.