Super Hornet price tag spiraling … downward?

Photo: Boeing

Five billion dollar paydays are rare even for a US defense contractor, so Boeing is probably feeling pretty good today.

The US Navy yesterday gave $5.3 billion to Boeing to build 124 F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18Gs over the next five years. That’s not quite as good as Lockheed Martin’s agreement last week on LRIP-4 for F-35, which, the company says, will pay more than $5 billion to build 32 aircraft over only one year. Of course, the Super Hornet fleet has a decade of production maturity and lacks very low observable (VLO) stealth, so the cost differential is not unexpected.

But it should be noted the pricing trend looks good for the Super Hornet after a year of uncertainty. The Department of Defense played hardball with Boeing for several months on the third multi-year contract, complaining that Boeing’s initial price offered only 7% savings compared to a single-year purchase. The DOD requires at least 10% savings to approve a multi-year, which trades away the department’s budgetary flexibility for marginal cost savings.

I researched Boeing’s press releases to find out how much the Super Hornet’s price has changed over the last decade. Even as the company introduced the Block II Super Hornet/Growler with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, the price has steadily declined. Keep in mind these figures don’t include ‘actuals’ — Congressional plus-ups make true cost comparisons impossible. But the trend is clear.

  • MYP 1 (June 2000) — orders 222 aircraft for $8.9 billion, or $40.09 million per copy. Adjusted for inflation based on consumer price index: $49.45 million (2009 dollars)
  • MYP 2 (December 2003) — orders 210 aircraft for $8.6 billion, or $40.95 million per copy. Adjusted for inflation based on consumer price index: $47.65 million (2009 $), a 7.6% decrease
  • MYP 3 (September 2010) — orders 124 aircraft for $5.3 billion, or $42.72 million per copy, a 10.4% decline compared to MYP-2 and 13.6% decline compared to MYP-1

 * Boeing MYP contracts exclude government furnished equipment, which includes engines


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15 Responses to Super Hornet price tag spiraling … downward?

  1. Charley 29 September, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    The Super Hornet is a bargin – we need more E/F/A-18E/F/G to recapitalize the fleet instead of SLEPing legacy Hornets.

  2. sferrin 30 September, 2010 at 1:35 am #

    You can buy a 1Gb hard drive or Pentium III pretty cheap too.

  3. Jimmy 30 September, 2010 at 5:09 am #

    Or they can build mini-Supers to get back to C/D’s performance and maneuverability levels.

  4. Jetcal1 30 September, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    Oh sure the price has come down, but cruise control, air conditioning and power windows are no longer available and floor mats are now an option.

  5. Michael 1 October, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    Is anyone nervous that there isn’t an alternate engine readily available for all these aircraft in case something goes wrong?

  6. Jetcal1 1 October, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    No need it’s a GE.

  7. Michael 5 October, 2010 at 2:11 am #

    Ohhh…right. How is that GE JSF engine doing these days?

  8. Drift 5 October, 2010 at 2:27 am #

    Making them cheaper still doesnt give them the range to keep the flankers away from the carrier

  9. Fred 5 October, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Who needs low observability anyway ?
    Which other weapon system delivers on time and on budget ?
    Expect Boeing to get more orders as frustration over the F-35 grows

  10. suresh Babu 5 October, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    My god , I was so lucky to work with the americans in Iraq
    I saw this bird fantastic, Looking forward to the Indian order (10 billion)for 126+ super hornets and pray boeing to clinch that order, any way indians are happy for the GE 414 engines for the Tejas fighter

  11. Jetcal1 5 October, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    As you know, I am an advocate of an alternate engine.

    And as someone who as a mechanic suffered under a program that lacked an alternate engine, I can tell you GEAE built engines far superior to any PWA product fielded by DoD from the late ’60′s until the mid-90′s,

  12. Jetcal1 5 October, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    The F-14 was killed strictly for economic reasons.

  13. Atomic Walrus 6 October, 2010 at 1:12 am #


    Sounds like you might be a bit hard on P&W. The J52 was a generation older than the J79, and the TF30 was the first military afterburning turbofan. The F404 and F110 benefited from a lot of learning to get where they were. For a more apples-to-apples comparison, how does a F100-229 compare with a F110-100? Or even J75 vs J79?

  14. Jetcal1 6 October, 2010 at 2:21 pm #

    The J52 really only showed its age when doing QECA, (Thank you Grumman,) It was an easy engine to run.

    The TF30 would make a mech out of you. (Approx 80 man-hours to do a MFC change,) With all the changes to get it to run on the cats it was only putting out about 12-14K thrust in zone 5 with WoW. (7th stage bleed were open.)

    F100-229 compared with a F110-400? The 110 was easier to work on, the -229 has a better BiT in the FADEC, but I could grind and balance my own compressor blades for the F110. Advantage 110.
    (My -229 experience is limited to working with customers. I am not very knowledgeable about the engine.)

    The F404 is easy 12 hours from T/D to T/C run. But, it’s own reliability created a problem in that the engines pulled lots of cycles far faster than what had been the norm. Parts became problematic for us in the mid to late 90′s.

    J75? Don’t know enough about it. (The J57 was pretty easy, and ran well for us back in the day. Last time I touched one was in ’83 and was for a A-3 Q-up)

    J79? Easy engine to teardown, a pain to Q. Replacing A/B liners or flaps was a pain. Ran well and was easy to trim. Not a happy install in the F-4. Rolling a motor on the F-14 was much easier.

  15. instantempo 26 October, 2010 at 1:03 pm #

    I wish I would have read your post. But unfortunately the code is messed up on my end. Is it just me? I can barely see the box for leaving comments. You may want to give it a check…

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