Employees of Boeing Defense in the St. Louis Super Hornet/Growler production facility, as well as employees involved in helping manufacture F/A-18E/F components across the country, are breathing a collective sigh of relief. News just hit of an impending announcement that Kuwait will purchase 28 Super Hornets in a deal that could fetch just north of three billion U.S. dollars.
The Kuwaiti Air Force’s aging Legacy Hornet fleet is due for an upgrade, and the deal could potentially keep the production line open in St. Louis beyond 2017. The Kuwaiti government has already signed a formal letter stating their firm plans to order the new aircraft. Unless the U.S. government blocks the deal, it appears as good as done once plans are finalized between the two countries.
The deal, coupled with moves by lawmakers to approve an additional 12 Super Hornets for the U.S. Navy, would keep production lines open for an additional two years beyond the original scheduled shut down in 2017.
Coming from the world of military contract work, I know all too well how much this means to the folks putting these aircraft together. More importantly, I understand what relief it must be for their families having grown up in such a perilous environment–always on edge when new contracts were waiting finalization.
Military contract work is a tremendous source of income and a great opportunity for people seeking to enter the world of aviation or further their careers in it, but when you near the end of a given contract, tensions for employees are ratcheted up quite a few notches. There is never a guarantee that original production numbers will stay firm, let alone the hopes of winning another contract to maintain employment.
Potential orders from Denmark, Malaysia, Canada, and Belgium may also extend the life of the St. Louis production line. Denmark’s decision on what direction they want to go is expected in late 2015 with other nations thereafter.
Boeing’s main competition for orders from Denmark, Belgium, and Canada comes from Lockheed-Martin f-35 with the F-35 Lightning II. Timeline slips and cost overruns in the F-35 program have reopened the competition and given Boeing a puncher’s chance at winning the business.
Only time will tell, but the future looks a lot brighter this week than it did last week–a scene all too familiar in this line of work.