Pentagon approves sale of 24 fighter jets to Australia
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS — The Pentagon on Thursday notified Congress of plans to sell 12 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters and 12 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare jets to Australia.
The deal would be worth $3.7 billion, and comes as a boost to Boeing’s efforts to expand its foreign sales in light of an expected decline in Pentagon spending.
Pentagon approval does not mean that Australia will place an order for the planes, which are built in ?St. Louis County. That decision is expected at midyear.
The deal, if completed, would help keep the local assembly line building Super Hornets. Boeing’s contract to build the fighter jets for the Navy runs through 2015.
The Australian press reported in December that the nation’s defense ministry was hedging its bets by requesting the Pentagon’s approval in the face of problems with the new F-35 Joint Strike fighter.
The new F-35 is the main competition to the Super Hornet, and the Lockheed Martin Corp. plane has faced cost overruns and other problems. The Pentagon temporarily grounded its F-35s when cracks were found in an engine blade.
Australia had planned to buy F-35s and was originally supposed to receive the first this year. But delivery may be delayed to 2020, according to Australian press accounts.
Australian defense officials say they may order more Super Hornets to maintain air superiority in the meantime. The Australians already have 25 Super Hornets along with older F/A-18 Hornets.
Boeing has been trying to expand Hornet sales to other nations.
As of last year, 24 percent of Boeing’s defense revenue came from international customers, twice as much as five years ago.
Boeing’s defense unit, which is headquartered in Hazelwood, employs 15,000 people in St. Louis?.
The Growler is a version of the Super Hornet rigged for electronic warfare.