“That’s exactly why we did things like ... shutting Wichita and shutting down the C-17 line so we can continue to invest in product lines that have longevity, and that’s why we’re investing in the F/A-18 line,” Muilenburg told Reuters in an interview at the air show.
“We are intentionally putting R&D into that platform because we believe it has longevity for our customers,” he said, citing Boeing’s work on developing a package of upgrades to improve the popular Navy F/A-18 fighter jet, and the older F-15 jet.
He declined to spell out the exact amount invested in the line, saying only, “It’s one of our largest investments.”
“We think that combination of capability and cost and schedule certainty is one that’s in demand now, and will be a decade from now, and decades to go,” he said.
He said the company would have to decide over the next year whether to self-fund certain items to keep the line going, but said he did not expect a decision to close the fighter line.
He said the company expected dozens of additional orders, but that number could grow to over 100.
Muilenburg said Boeing’s F/A-18 and F-15 jets were under consideration by several Arab countries, including United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. Canada, Denmark and Malaysia also have fighter competitions under way.
Canada and Denmark initially planned to buy Lockheed’s F-35 fighter, but have recently restarted competitions.