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US Navy seeks to to bridge strike fighter gap with F/A-18 Super Hornet contract

RED SEA (Feb. 29, 2024) Sailors prepare an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the "Wildcats" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 for flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) in the Red Sea, Feb. 29, 2024. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. Photo: US Navy/Petty Officer 3rd Class Samantha Alaman

The US Navy has announced plans to acquire 17 F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole fighter jets to help bridge a gap in their strike fighter fleet.

The US Navy has announced plans to acquire 17 F/A-18 Super Hornet multirole fighter jets to help bridge a gap in their strike fighter fleet.

The Navy has engaged American defence prime Boeing in a US$1.3 billion contract for the purchase of 17 aircraft and the delivery of technical data packages vital to sustainment of the platform, according to information released by US Naval Air Systems Command on March 19.

“The technical data package was a crucial part of this negotiation; it is necessary for naval aviation’s operational readiness and post-production sustainment,” said Rear Admiral John Lemmon, Program Executive Officer for Tactical Aircraft Programs.

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“The Super Hornet remains a predominant aircraft in the carrier air wing and will continue to provide significant combat capability into the 2040s.”

Delivery of the new Super Hornets is scheduled to begin in 2026, with final delivery no later than 2027.

The US Navy received appropriated funds from Congress to purchase the Super Hornets to help mitigate the strike fighter shortfall; and the award is an Undefinitised Contract Action with the intent to definitize within the next few months.

“I am very proud of our team; their mission-focused mindset, data-driven approach and persistence resulted in an agreement that will greatly benefit the sustainment of the Super Hornet and Growler aircraft well into the future,” according to F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office program manager Captain Michael Burks.

“It is our job to ensure our war fighters have all the necessary resources to defend our nation and return home safely.”

The F/A-18 Super Hornet has traditionally been used as a carrier-capable multirole fighter to carry air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles and other weaponry.

The Royal Australian Airforce currently operates 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets used in conjunction with F-35A Lightning II and EA-18G Growlers aircraft.

The F/A-18F Super Hornets achieved Final Operational Capability (FOC) in December 2012 and are based at Number 1 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley.

Super Hornet aircraft are expected to continue flying for the RAAF until at least 2030 after the federal government agreed to a new $600 million deal to upgrade and sustain its fleet, earlier this year. The five-year contract with Boeing Defence Australia, which also covers sister aircraft the Growler, will effectively extend the life of a fleet that had been thought to be retired in 2027.

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