Boeing sees F/A-18 fighter line continuing through 2017

Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:00pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal

LONDON (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) said on Sunday it was optimistic it could maintain production of its F/A-18 and EA-18G fighter jets in St. Louis through the end of 2017 - a year longer than expected - if Congress approved additional orders of a dozen more planes.

But the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told reporters that slowing production to extend the line was likely to increase costs at a time when budgets were already tight.

"I don’t see how we can do that without it costing money and we just don't have money to spend on things that aren’t core requirements right now," Kendall said at a separate briefing.

Chris Chadwick, president and chief executive of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said the company was in discussions with the U.S. Navy about revamping the production schedule for jets already ordered, but added no decisions had been made.

Chadwick said action by several congressional committees to add funding for 12 more EA-18G electronic attack fighters or Growlers "looked very positive" and should allow the company to keep the production line running a year longer than expected.

"I think that will allow us to stretch the line out ... through the end of 2017," Chadwick told reporters at the company's London office ahead of the Farnborough air show.

Boeing, seeking to stave off a shutdown of the St. Louis production line, has been lobbying U.S. lawmakers to add funding for additional EA-18G aircraft, arguing the planes offer the most sophisticated electronic attack capabilities available.

The company has previously said it needed to build at least two airplanes a month at the facility to keep rates economical.   Continued...

A U.S. Navy F/A-18 aircraft takes off on the runway of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington, during a tour of the ship in the South China Sea November 7, 2013.  REUTERS/Tyrone Siu