Boeing's Super Hornet in a Dogfight Victory in Congress Crucial for Jobs Here `Boeing Co. and the Future of Naval Aviation Are Counting on Us'

By Christopher Carey Of The Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 23, 1997 | Go to article overview

Boeing's Super Hornet in a Dogfight Victory in Congress Crucial for Jobs Here `Boeing Co. and the Future of Naval Aviation Are Counting on Us'


Christopher Carey Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Navy Capt. James "Gib" Godwin is already a fan of Boeing Co.'s F/A-18 Super Hornet.

So is his 3-year-old son.

"He runs around with an F-18 in his hand, chasing a B-2 all over the place," said Godwin, who manages the Navy's end of the Super Hornet program. Winning over Congress, which is looking for weapons programs to cut or cancel, is the next challenge. Victory is crucial for the 7,000 people who work on the program at Boeing's McDonnell Aircraft and Missile Systems unit in St. Louis. Assembly started Monday on the first production model of the Super Hornet, a strike fighter designed to operate from aircraft carriers. As hundreds of employees and guests looked on in Building 67 of the company's manufacturing complex north of Lambert Field, four machinists attached an aluminum panel to the front end of the aircraft. The new plane, designated F/A-18E6, may be the most important the company has built, Godwin said. "It sets the stage for the success of the Super Hornet," he said. From a manufacturing standpoint, the Super Hornet has been a success already. The first jets, built in the test phase of the program, came in on time, on budget and 1,000 pounds under the maximum weight. Navy officials have been impressed not only with McDonnell Aircraft's innovations in design and manufacturing but also with the performance of the finished product. Boeing and its partner on the Super Hornet, Northrop Grumman Corp., have built and delivered seven test aircraft to a Naval air station at Pa tuxent River, Md. The Super Hornet comes in two models, the one-pilot F/A-18E and the two-person F/A-18F. "The five Es and two Fs at (Patuxent River) have demonstrated that the Super Hornet is indeed super," said Pat Finneran, who leads Boeing's effo rt on the F/A-18 program. The Super Hornet is competing for scarce defense dollars with two other big-ticket programs - the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter. The Navy and the Marine Corps originally wanted to buy 1,000 Super Hornets, at a cost of $42.2 million each in 1997 dollars. The Super Hornet can both shoot down enemy aircraft and bomb enemy targets. The Navy envisions the jet as its main strike fighter in the 21st century. But a study the Defense Department sent to President Bill Clinton four months ago recommended that the United States pare its Super Hornet purchases to no more than 785 jets. Boeing is a major subcontractor on the F-22 Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin Corp. …

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