Boeing, backers to fight for funding for 22 Boeing jets

By Andrea Shalal

(Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) 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.

Lawmakers from Missouri said they had already gathered over 80 signatures from Republicans and Democrats in the House Armed Services Committee, and the International Association of Machinists said it planned to send 26 members to Washington next week to lobby for additional support.

Boeing is also vying for orders of 24 to 60 F/A-18 Super Hornets in the Middle East, and is gearing up for a flight demonstration in Denmark’s fighter competition, Mike Gibbons, the company’s F/A-18 and EA-18G program manager, told reporters at a ceremony marking the delivery of the 100th EA-18G Growler.

The House Armed Services Committee on Monday proposed adding $450 million to the U.S. Navy’s fiscal 2015 budget for five more Boeing Co (BA.N) EA-18G electronic attack planes, well short of the 22 jets on the Navy’s list of “unfunded priorities.”

Buck McKeon, chairman of the committee, said his proposed changes to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget found savings across the Defense Department to fund many key programs, but “there simply was not enough to save every program.”

In a press release announcing the chairman’s “mark,” the committee said McKeon “recognizes the need for continued production of the EA-18G Growler but was only able to fund five additional aircraft.”

Gibbons said the company had reached an agreement with the Navy on a multibillion-dollar contract for 47 more F/A-18 fighter jets and EA-18G electronic attack planes funded in fiscal years 2013 and 2014, and is “very close” to signing a contract.

Gibbons said the contract would include 11 F/A-18 Super Hornets funded in fiscal 2013, 21 EA-18G “Growlers” funded in fiscal 2014, 12 Growlers for Australia and three additional EA-18G planes included in a legal settlement with the U.S. government.

He said the contract could be finalized and signed within the next two months. Gibbons gave no details on the total value of the contract.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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