Australia has not asked the Pentagon to submit pricing for 18 F/A-18 Super Hornet warplanes built by Boeing, the U.S. Navy’s program manager for the warplanes said.
U.S. Navy Captain Mark Darrah said he had seen a report in the Australian newspaper that was published on Monday, and was recently in Australia, but Australian officials had not asked for “pricing and availability” of F/A-18s, the first step toward a possible foreign military sale.
The report said Australia was considering buying 18 of the Boeing fighter planes for about $1.6 billion to plug a hole in defense capabilities left by expected delays in Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Australia bought 24 Boeing F/A-18 fighter planes in 2007. It plans to buy up to 100 radar-evading Lockheed F-35 warplanes for about $16 billion, but the newspaper report said Australian officials were worried that further delays in the F-35 program will leave them with a gap in capability.
Darrah told reporters at the annual Navy League conference that the F/A-18 and the electronic attack version, EA-18G, were performing well, and attracting considerable foreign interest.
He said the plane’s foreign sales prospects got a boost by the Pentagon’s decision to buy 41 more planes under a multiyear agreement with Boeing, adding a year to the production line and giving U.S. officials more time to line up foreign sales.
India, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Indonesia were all interested in the plane, Darrah said.
Kory Matthews, vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs for Boeing, said Japan was expected to release a request for proposals for new warplanes this week, possibly on Wednesday.
He said Boeing would review Japan’s requirements before deciding whether to bid the F/A-18 or the F-15 fighter, but initial indications were that the F/A-18 would meet its needs.