Boeing to end production of F/A-18 Super Hornet by 2025


Berkeley — Boeing’s decision to phase out production of the St. Louis Defense Operations’ trademark F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter marks the beginning of a two-year realignment of the company’s regional operations and its suppliers. increase.

Boeing’s announcement Thursday that it will halt production of new aircraft after delivery to the U.S. Navy in late 2025 wasn’t entirely unexpected. We are phasing out Boeing legacy fighter purchases.

“This is the first time we have a definitive timeline,” said Lauren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute.

The plane has supported jobs for decades at Boeing, McDonnell Douglas before it, and their network of suppliers. The plane hit the silver screen last year in the action movie sequel Top Gun: Maverick.

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The decision will allow Boeing to devote more resources to its next-generation military aircraft, expanding production on other lines such as the T-7A Redhawk training aircraft and the MQ-25 Stingray refueling drone. said it can. The company manufactures a small number of his MQ-25 drones in St. Louis County, and plans to make many more on a new assembly line under construction in Mascota.

Boeing said it plans to hire in St. Louis over the next five years. The company said he added 900 jobs in the region in 2022, many of them engineers, another sign of a shift towards future products.

Edward Jones industry analyst Jeff Window said the eventual end of production of the F/A-18 was the main reason Boeing had to acquire other programs to expand. said. About five years ago, the company went “pretty aggressive” after signing the T-7A trainer and his MQ-25 refueling drone program.

Approximately 1,500 employees work for Boeing’s F/A-18 program, most of which are based in St. Louis. “They are highly skilled workers,” Boeing spokeswoman Deborah Vannierop said. “Their skills are easily transferable to other programs.”

The company announced plans several years ago to allow time to scale back its long-lead supply. Boeing will continue to maintain and upgrade the F/A-18, and production could be extended to 2027 if Boeing receives more orders from the Indian Navy.

“This will have a huge impact on the hundreds of companies that provide parts and components for the Super Hornet,” Thompson said.

Chuck Gerding, CEO of Dittmar-based Gerding Enterprises, said there had been talk of ending the F/A-18 program for years.

If production stops in 2025, it will be a challenge for his companyWith 25 employees, the company has manufactured components for the F/A-18 since its inception over 40 years ago. His company also makes parts for other aircraft, but Boeing is the company’s biggest customer, and the F/A-18 is a “big part” of its livelihood.

He remains hopeful that something will change to extend the life of the program.

“They are the best players in the world. I don’t understand why the government is trying to downsize this,” Garding said. “I put out a good product.”

“This is a hell of a program and I don’t want to see it go away,” he said.

Aerospace suppliers will have to adapt, but most do not rely on a single aircraft program.

“Thankfully the T-7 still has a long ramp,” Aboulafia said. “It will take up a lot of the job base.”

Boeing has approximately 15,800 total employees in the St. Louis area, the second largest after Washington state. Operations in St. Louis are primarily focused on defense products such as his F-15, T-7A and MQ-25.

“We are planning for the future and building fighter planes is in our DNA,” said Steve Nordland, senior site director for Boeing St. Louis, in a statement. As we invest and develop our next-age capabilities, we are applying the same innovations and expertise that have made the F/A-18 the workhorse of the U.S. Navy and Air Force around the world for nearly 40 years.”

Demographic challenge: St. Louis has been one of the nation’s slowest growing metropolitan areas over the past decade. Jim Gallagher argues that we should be more concerned about quality of life, but David Nicklaus counters that the region cannot thrive without growth.

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