July 16, 2012
Credit: U.S. Navy file photo
THE PENTAGON — With prices rising and schedules slipping for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing says it is seeing a resurgent interest in the F-18 in U.S. foreign markets.
The company is especially keen on potential international sales, says Mike Gibbons, vice president of F/A-18 & EA-18 programs for Boeing Military Aircraft. The company can leverage its global footprint to offer better deals to international customers, particularly when it comes to offering industry participation in Boeing facilities or programs around the world, Gibbons says.
“We can map out everything in Boeing,” Gibbons said July 12 during an F-18 technology simulation outside the Pentagon. Boeing can trade work in other programs as a sweetener for potential F-18 deals, he says.
Not only are Brazil and other countries interested in F-18s, but foreign militaries also are eyeing some of the console improvements being featured on the latest proposed Super Hornets, Gibbons says.
The console allows the cockpit crew to tailor the screen views, changing size, position and type depending on what they need or want in any given scenario, with a split-screen capability akin to many personal computers.
One change that the U.S. Navy is particularly interested in, Gibbons says, is the development of conformal fuel tanks, which also would open up the current centerline fuel tank position for other payloads.
Now Boeing just has to keep the F-18 production line warm until the U.S. Navy or potential international buyers decide whether they want to procure the aircraft. “Our line is good to the end of 2015,” Gibbons says. By then, Boeing thinks the U.S. Navy and other potential buyers should be ready to decide.
One aircraft that is helping keep F-18 production aloft is the EA-18G Growler, the Navy’s future electronic warfare (EW) linchpin.