Study may show need for more Boeing electronic attack jets: U.S. Navy

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2015 10:36 PM

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Navy study on the Pentagon's joint electronic warfare needs will likely make the case for more Boeing Co EA-18G attack jets, but the jets may not be available if Congress fails to fund some orders in fiscal 2016, a top admiral said on Thursday.

Rear Admiral Mike Manazir, director of air warfare for the Navy's chief of naval operations, said Boeing needs some orders in the fiscal 2016 budget to ensure the aircraft's availability for future orders if the report's findings are validated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and certified by top Pentagon leaders.

Manazir told reporters he had no details about the study, but said it would call for "more than we have" to meet the needs of the other services.

Navy spokesman Lieutenant Rob Myers said the study was still being finalized, and its conclusions were not yet available.

EA-18G aircraft jam enemy radars and other equipment so fighter jets can carry out their attack missions safely.

Boeing this week said it was upbeat about extending the St. Louis production line where it builds F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growlers beyond 2017, given recent comments by Navy officials and possible foreign orders.

The company must decide by mid-year, before the fiscal 2016 budget is approved, whether to buy parts that have a long production lead time, or start the line shutdown. The Navy's fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

"The challenge for me is that if the line shuts down ... I now run out of options, and I can’t procure Growlers if the analysis says that we need more," Manazir said.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert this month told Congress the Navy had enough Growlers for its own use, but the study was assessing the needs of the other military services, which do not have their own electronic attack planes.

He also said the Navy faced a potential shortfall of up to 36 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in coming years, given delays in work on extending the life of 150 older C-model F/A-18s from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours that had triggered greater than expected use of the Navy's 566 newer model Super Hornets.

Manazir said the shortfall was also due to delays in Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter, which the Navy now plans to start using in 2018, a decade later than planned.

(Editing by Alan Crosby, Miral Fahmy and Muralikumar Anantharaman)