Lawmakers: Give US Navy More F/A-18s

By Joe Gould, Defense News

NOTE: This article, originally published March 1, was updated to correct Rep. Bruce Poliquin’s party affiliation.

WASHINGTON —The US Navy is planning to request 12 more F/A-18 Super Hornets than the two it was allocated in the president’s 2017 defense budget, according to a House lawmaker.

Citing overtaxed naval aviation assets, Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., asked the House Armed Services Committee to consider adding the aircraft through the 2017 defense policy bill expected to be drafted over the coming weeks. The chief of naval operations, Wagner said, will place the 12 aircraft on the service’s unfunded requirement list.

“There is still a potential gap this year,” said Wagner, whose district is near where Boeing assembles the aircraft in St. Louis.

“Given the critical capability that the Super Hornet provides for ongoing wartime operations, any shortfall is dangerous to the Navy’s ability to project force throughout the world,” Wagner said. “This unfunded requirement request helps mitigate that shortfall, anticipating the Navy will follow through on its promise to add aircraft in the next year’s budget deliberations.”

Bost, whose district borders St. Louis, called the procurement of added Super Hornets, “critical to meeting the anticipated needs of the United States Navy and to keeping the production lines open as the United States prepares anticipated aircraft sales to allied nations.”

There are only two F-18s in the president’s fiscal 2017 request, both funded in through the Overseas Contingency Operations account, with plans to buy 14 of the aircraft in 2018, reversing a decision to end US procurement of the Boeing-built aircraft. Wagner called for Congress to add 12 aircraft to the Navy future-years defense program, an increase from 16 to 28.

Plans have been in the works to retire the F/A-18C Hornets in the mid-2020s, followed by the F/A-18E and F Super Hornets around 2035, but the consistently delayed development of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter has compelled the service to push the Hornets past their planned service lives.

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