Boeing F-18 assembly line in St. Louis could close

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The Boeing assembly line that produces F-18 fighter jets in St. Louis could close within 2 1/2 years, unless Boeing gets more orders for the super hornet jet.

Congress and the president are giving St. Louis a slim hope fighter jet production will continue.

The US Navy decided a few years ago to phase out its F-18's on aircraft carriers in favor of the Lockheed-Martin F-35. The argument was the F-35 would be a stealthier, 21st century fighter. But with the F-35 behind schedule, over budget, and plagued with problems, congress and the president want the Navy to hedge its bets.

Since 1978, St. Louis workers have produced hundreds of variations of the F-18. In 36 years, no F-18 has ever been shot down in combat. But that production line shuts in 2016 without more orders. In the federal budget bill signed last week, congress and the president set aside $75 million, as a sort of down-payment on more F-18s. The budget bill requires the Navy to decide this year whether to order 22 more F-18's.

The reason is that the Northrop-Grumman F-35 fighter, a stealthy fighter designed to replace the F-18, has turned into a major headache. It can't fly in bad weather. The complicated camera system feeding displays in the pilot's helmet has never worked. The F-35 joint strike fighter is no good as a fighter, outmaneuvered in tests by much older Russian and Chinese jets. In fact a new Pentagon report finds over 700 separate problems with the F-35, which has already cost $400 billion and could end up costing over a trillion.

And even though the Navy says it doesn’t want any more F-18's, the new budget orders them to take another look, given the F-35's mammoth problems. Will this be enough to save the St. Louis production line? Maybe, maybe not.

Both of Missouri’s senators okayed the extra money to study building more F-18's. And some in congress want the F-35 program cancelled completely in favor of lots more F-18's, until a new joint strike fighter can be designed. And the dogfight to determine the F-18's fate will be in the halls of congress and the pentagon.


  • Gary Lockhart

    “In 36 years, no F-18 has ever been shot down in combat.” Charles Jaco

    Incorrect. Lt. Cmdr Scott Speicher of VFA-81 was flying an F/A-18C; Bureau Number 163484, on 17 January 1991 when he was shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25. Lt. Nathan White of VFA-195 was flying a F/A-18C: Bureau Number 164974, on 2 April 2003 when he was shot down by friendly fire; Patriot missiles.

    Some sources indicate that Lt. Robert Dwyer of VFA-87 was flying a F/A-18C; Bureau Number 163096, on 5 February 1991 when he was shot down over the northern Persian Gulf.

    Regarding your comments; which you seem to be simply parroting from other sources, on the F-35, one wonders how much time you’ve actually logged in any variant of the Lightning II. More than likely none.

  • Jered

    Any armchair analyst commenting on the F-35 has no usiness doing so. While the jet does have developmental problems, ay new generational jet would that is trying to incorporate the technology of the F-35. As for maneuverability, a stealth aircraft needing maneuverability needs a new pilot, no stealth jet should ever find itself in that situation. If anyone ever realised that this jet is replacing 8 types of aircraft then they would realise it is a complete bargain versus trying to develop 8 new types. Just wait and see. The F-18 was the perfect jet for twenty years of fighting 3rd world countries. It is not a jet on the cutting edge, it has amazing systems that are hampered by its airframe. The radar and missile range and completely compromised by its lack of speed, acceleration and fuel. Any AIM-120 carried by any other aircraft has at least 20% more range based on that aircrafts ability to launch it at a higher speed. We will love and tout the F-18 until we have to engage a modern threat, then we will scream for the F-35 to save the day.

  • Mike

    Lockheed Martin makes the F-35, Northrop Grumman is a sub-contractor on the F-18. Also the current plan is to keep the Super Hornet WITH the F-35 and phase out the older legacy hornets. How is it that this jet is built miles away from Fox 2 studios, yet they can’t even get basic information right?

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