With a little help from the U.S. Congress and the potential for international orders, Boeing (Chalet 321, 324) is bullish about prospects for its international fighters. 

A year ago, the fate of the F/A-18 production line in St. Louis was uncertain. Pentagon orders were trailing off, and the U.S. Navy again did not formally request money for the platform for fiscal 2016.
The Navy, did, however, ask lawmakers informally, calling the F/A-18 an unfunded priority, and all four of the U.S. Congress’s defense committees have recommended purchasing as many as 12 additional Super Hornets. One committee is seeking additional EA-18G Growlers to make up for electronic warfare programs that the Navy had requested one year ago. 

“That gives us some confidence there will be another tranche,” says Chris Raymond, vice president of business strategy for Boeing Defense, Space & Security. He added that with international orders, the production line could be extended at least through 2019. 

The other question regarding the U.S., Raymond says, is where the Navy comes out in the analysis of how many it will need, given the throughput in depots and the potential for shortfalls in the inventory because the aircraft has seen so much use in combat.  

Boeing is also bidding to win a fighter competition in Denmark, but is waiting on the outcome of national elections there. Jeff Koehler, Boeing’s vice president for international business, says the company recently met with the country’s evaluating authorities and that a decision on the competition is expected in September or October. 

In addition to the F/A-18, Boeing is confident that its F-15 fighters are also in demand, domestically and internationally. The U.S. Air Force plans to invest billions in upgrades over the next five years that include upgrading the aircraft to communicate with F-22 and F-35 fighters. 

Japan has more than 200 F-15s that are in good condition and could be considering communications upgrades to that fleet, Raymond said. South Korea may also upgrade its F-15s, possibly adding AESA radar capabilities or other digital enhancements, Raymond adds. 

In addition to legacy fighters, Boeing has eight remaining C-17 cargo jets in various stages of production. Of those, one has been sold to an “unnamed customer,” Raymond says. Two others are going to Australia. The company is in talks with customers for the remaining five aircraft. “We’re confident we’ll get all five sold” by the fourth quarter of this year, Koehler says.