Boeing, backers to fight for funding for 22 Boeing jets

Mon May 5, 2014 7:47pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) and its supporters on Monday vowed to fight for $2.1 billion in funding for 22 EA-18G electronic attack planes in fiscal 2015 to keep the plane's St. Louis production line running past 2016 and preserve 60,000 jobs around the country.

Hundreds of Boeing workers attended a rally at the plant on Monday to mark the delivery of the 100th EA-18G "Growler" to the Navy, as the company highlighted the plane's unique capabilities and accelerated its campaign to keep the program alive.

Lawmakers from Missouri said they had already gathered over 80 signatures from Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives, and the International Association of Machinists said it would send 26 members to Washington next week to lobby for continued production of the planes.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the on-time, on-budget performance of the Boeing program marked a stark contrast to Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N: Quote) F-35 fighter program, whose cost overruns and delays she described as "embarrassingly bad."

Boeing officials say the Growler, which provides electronic jamming and surveillance, will work together with F-35s on the deck of Navy carriers, but executives say the Growler could also take over some missions now done by strike aircraft.

McCaskill said the F/A-18 Super Hornet offered 85 percent of the F-35's capabilities at far less cost. She said the Navy needed both planes, but added, "at some point you cut your losses."

F-35 backers worry that the Navy could back out of its plans to buy 260 of the Lockheed jets and start using them from 2019 on, if Congress keeps funding more of the Boeing aircraft.

As it battles for more funding, Boeing has downplayed the importance of the F-35's "stealthy" characteristics, arguing that enemy radars have advanced and the Growler is the only U.S. warplane that can deal with a full range of enemy radar threats.   Continued...

The Boeing logo is seen at their headquarters in Chicago, April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young