U.S. House defense bill funds 12 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets fighters, 6 Lockheed F-35s Lightning

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2015

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee's fiscal 2016 defense bill includes $1.15 billion in extra funding for 12 additional Boeing Co Super Hornet combat jets and $1 billion for six Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 B-model fighters.

The committee is expected to mark up the proposed legislation on Wednesday, followed by its introduction in the full House of Representatives the week of May 11.

Both funding requests were included in the "unfunded priorities" lists submitted to Congress by the Navy and Marine Corps this year. The Navy also requested 8 F-35 C-model planes that can land on an aircraft carrier, but the committee did not fund those jets in its proposed legislation.

Roman Schweizer, an analyst with Guggenheim Partners, said the committee's decision to fund 12 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, along with reports that a Navy assessment had found a requirement for 30 more EA-18G electronic attack planes, meant Boeing might extend production at its plant in St. Louis.

He cautioned, however, that the Senate Armed Services Committee still needed to include funding for the aircraft in its authorization bill, as did congressional appropriators.

"We're a long way from anything being finalized," Schweizer said.

Boeing must decide in June whether to self-fund titanium and other "long-lead" supplies for the F/A-18 and EA-18G fighter jets until the fiscal 2016 budget is finalized or allow the St. Louis line to shut down.

The company is also bullish about landing a big Super Hornet order from a Middle Eastern country, which together with the Navy jets could keep the St. Louis line running through the end of 2018.

A source familiar with the matter said Kuwait was expected to submit a formal letter of request and letter of acceptance for 28 F/A-18E/F jets to the U.S government in the near term.

Boeing has said it needs to build two jets a month at the St. Louis facility to maintain current pricing. At that rate, funding for a dozen more jets would extend production through mid-2018, while the Kuwaiti order could push it out past 2019.

Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert told Congress last month that the Navy faced a potential shortfall of up to 36 aircraft given delays in extending the life of its older-model F/A-18 aircraft.