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Super Hornets see boost in new US budget request

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would add funding to buy up to 74 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets through 2022, or 60 more than planned in previous budget forecasts.

The Navy is requesting 14 Super Hornets in Fiscal 2018 to mitigate the service’s strike fighter shortfall, officials said this week. In addition, Trump’s budget proposal inserts new plans to procure 23 more F/A-18E/Fs in FY2019, 14 in FY2020, 14 in FY2021 and 15 in FY2022. The recent request not only includes funding for new Super Hornets, but also advanced procurement dollars to address advanced capabilities.

While Boeing celebrated the intended purchase of new F/A-18E/Fs as a sign that the Trump administration would commit to funding Super Hornets year after year, the status of the five-year funding plan is not settled. During a budget rollout briefing this week, Pentagon officials warned that procurement numbers beyond FY2018 would be subject to change following the outcome of a defence strategy review due this August. John Roth, the Pentagon's deputy comptroller, emphasised that the long-term budget was not informed by strategy or policy.

“We have focused on getting a budget ready for FY2017 and then we pivoted to get '18 done to meet this date as well, the secretary has not spent anytime looking beyond '18,” he says.

Trump’s FY2018 request continues a steady procurement for the navy. Although FY2018 budget documents detail 26 F/A-18E/Fs procured in FY2017, the Navy only received funding to procure 14 fighters for that year. The original FY2017 base budget did not call for a Super Hornet order, but did request two aircraft using overseas contingency operations funding. When the navy released its unfunded priorities list, it included a request for 12 Super Hornets. The service called for another 12 in a supplemental budget released after the election, but those dozen aircraft were not funded.

In February, Trump appeared to foreshadow a larger F/A-18E/F order during a visit to Boeing’s manufacturing complex in North Charleston, South Carolina.

“Do you care if we use the F/A-18 Super Hornets?” Trump asked. “We are looking seriously at a big order. The problem is that [Boeing CEO] Dennis [Muilenburg] is a very tough negotiator, but I think we may get there.”

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