AIRSHOW-Boeing executives upbeat about future of F/A-18 fighter

Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:40am EST
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa and Tim Hepher

DUBAI Nov 18 (Reuters) - Top Boeing Co executives are upbeat about the future of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet and see a good chance of winning additional U.S. and international orders that would keep the production line running past 2016.

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney told reporters at the Dubai Airshow it was difficult to predict future orders given continued uncertainty about the U.S. budget.

"I can't predict the future exactly, but I think there is a good chance of more orders from the U.S. government," McNerney said.

He said he also saw "a good chance" that Brazil would ultimately select the F/A-18 in a fighter jet competition that has been delayed after reports that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

"I could imagine a worst case scenario where the line shuts down in three to four years, but I don't think that will come to pass," McNerney said.

Boeing is showing the F/A-18 fighter jet at the Dubai Airshow as it seeks orders that will extend the production line past 2016, when it is currently expected to end.

Mounting budget pressures in the United States, and the Pentagon's decision to focus on the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet, coupled with delays in foreign competitions mean Boeing must decide soon whether to invest its own money to keep the line running until firm orders emerge.

Dennis Muilenburg, who heads Boeing's defense division, said the company decided this year to close its C-17 production plant in Long Beach, California and its Wichita, Kansas plant to preserve cash for investment in the F/A-18 fighter line.   Continued...