Boeing has offered the US Navy its "lowest ever price" for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as it tries to capitalise on delays to the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The company has offered a flyaway price of $49.9 million for 170 aircraft to be delivered over four years from 2010 to 2013. This compares with $53.8 million for aircraft being built under the current multi-year contract, which ends in 2009.

The unsolicited proposal has been put on the table as the USN completes a naval aviation plan that will be briefed to the chief of naval operations in late July and which is expected to identify a shortfall of between 50 and 200 fighters because initial operational capability of the carrier-based F-35C has been pushed back to 2015.

At 170 aircraft, Boeing's follow-on multi-year proposal is for about 80 more Super Hornets than the US Navy is currently programmed to receive. "The exact inventory shortfall depends on F/A-18A-D life, and JSF delivery dates and rates," says Bob Gower, F/A-18 programme vice-president. "We are offering the most capable Super Hornet at a price that is more affordable than JSF," he says.

Gower says the price offered represents a reduction of more than 50% from the low-rate initial production Super Hornets, largely due to cost-reduction efforts tied to the two multi-year contracts signed so far - which saved $700 million and $1.1 billion respectively over year-by-year procurement. A third multi-year would save an estimated $1.1 billion for 170 aircraft, he says, but savings would be less if the navy buys only 92 Super Hornets to complete procurement as programmed.

Boeing plans to build Australia's 24 Super Hornets within the current multi-year contract - 12 each in 2008 and 2009 - and has agreed a revised delivery schedule with the US Navy to avoid pushing the production rate beyond the 54-a-year capability of current tooling, Gower says. This takes advantage of the fact Boeing is 10 aircraft ahead of schedule in deliveries to the USN and will see annual production increase from 42 to 48 in 2009.

Source: Flight International