Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Boeing is meeting with suppliers to identify cost-reduction initiatives to drive the unit price of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet down to the $40 million target set for export sales.

Programme general manager Pat Finneran says Boeing has a "strategic imperative" to get the F/A-18E/F's price down to "around $40 million" by 2005 so that it can be competitive on the export market.

Production efficiencies afforded by the 222-aircraft multi-year procurement contract about to be signed with the USNavy will reduce the flyaway unit cost by $10 million over five years, "but we will have to go another $7-10 million below that to get into the $40 million range", he says.

Boeing has established production lot 27, to be produced in 2005, as the "benchmark" for the export F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, he says. This will incorporate upgrades under development, including an active-array radar and third-generation navigation/targeting pod; advanced mission computers and cockpit displays; a helmet-mounted cueing system and off-boresight air-to-air missile and an advanced aft crew station. "By 2005 the competition will have these," he says.

Finneran believes the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will be competitive, if its price can be reduced. "We do not have a $40 million aircraft. We have got to figure out how to get there."

Boeing is working on producibility improvements for the wing and forward fuselage, but Finneran says "fundamental change" in the company's relationship with suppliers is needed to further decrease costs.

Summit meetings are being held with suppliers, including with F414 engine supplier General Electric, and an executive is being appointed to head the drive to reduce the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet's cost.

"We think we can get to a $40 million aircraft if we continue to push change," he says, adding: "We have two years to achieve it."

Source: Flight International