Shortly after Boeing decides whether Missouri will be the home of a new major commercial aviation factory, it will have to decide the future of its military aviation factory.
One of the state’s biggest motivations behind bidding to be the site of the factory where Boeing will make its new airliner is the possible phase-out of the assembly line for the F-18 fighter jet. The F-18 is 35 years old now and production is scheduled to end in 2016. Boeing will decide in March what to do.
Senator McCaskill, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is betting Boeing keeps building the plane. She says $75-million for future F-18 procurements are in the budget agreed to last month and another two-billion dollars for the EA-18G Growler, the Navy version of the plane.
She says it would let the Air Force and the Navy deal with a gap caused by the Joint Strike Fighter’s slow development and the needs of the Air Force and the Navy, especially the Navy which is short dozens of fighter planes that can land on carriers.. She says the Pentagon has not opposed the funding, small amount though it might be.
A Vice-President of the Boeing F-18 program says he would not be surprised if enough orders keep the line running past 2020. McCaskill is convinced that the airplane will be produced longer than many people think because it’s much cheaper and can do 85% of the things the Strike Fighter can do.