Pending Congressional approval, the sales of 72 Boeing F-15QA Strike Eagles to Qatar and 40 F/A-18Es and F/A-18Fs Super Hornets to Kuwait are expected to go through, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced this week.
The Qatar and Kuwait sales could help save Boeing’s Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler line at its St. Louis, Missouri facility, which has slowed production of the aircraft to two per month. The Kuwait sale would extend the F/A-18 line through mid-2018 and combined with orders from the US Navy, Boeing would continue building two Super Hornets per month into the 2020s, Boeing officials told reporters in September.
US Air Force acquisition officials expected the fighter deals would have wrapped up two years ago, but interagency delays slowed down the process, Heidi Grant the USAF’s under-secretary of international affairs, told reporters at an Air Force Association event outside Washington this week.
“It took us three years to get to yes, but we got to yes,” Grant says. “We kept pushing it even though it was kind of a no for now.”
Grant told reporters the recent presidential election did not affect the deal and no conversation with president-elect Donald Trump’s transition happened. However, there could be opportunities for the new administration to make a decision on the fighter jet deals.
“I have received no direction about what to expect from the new administration, therefore I’ll keep moving forward,” she says. “Until January 20, we’re under the current administration.”
Kuwait has requested 32 F/A-18Es with F414-GE-400 engines, as well as eight F/A-18F jets with F414-GE-400 engines. The total package, estimated at $10.1 billion, also includes 41 Raytheon APG-79 active electronically scanned array radars and 20mm guns.
DCSA outlined fewer details for the Qatar sale, stating the estimated $21.1 billion deal would include the 72 aircraft plus weapons packages, lead-in fighter training and procurement for various weapon support.
While Boeing breathes a sigh of relief for its F-15 and F/A-18 production lines, Lockheed Martin is still awaiting the approval of its F-16 sales to Bahrain. As Lockheed’s F-35 production line has expanded, its F-16 production in Ft. Worth, Texas has dwindled and may be in jeopardy of shuttering at the end of 2017 without a boost from foreign sales.
In late September, Congress began the process of examining the sale to Bahrain shortly after the US signed a $38 billion, 10-year military assistance package to Israel. That deal may have helped calm Israel’s concerns over a US fighter jet sale to Gulf states.
The F-16 deal appears to be moving forward, Grant says. Lockheed has promoted the F-16 in several countries, including Indonesia and Colombia.
“My role is to be an advocate for the sales,” she says. “There’s many countries out there that are still interested in the purchase of the F-16 and my role is pushing forward.”