F-18E Super Hornet loadout. Via Globalsecurity.org.

 

Last week a representative for Boeing contacted this blog and wanted to discuss the F-18 and the F-X program. I asked if I could email the company some questions, and the company agreed. Questions and answers appear below, unedited.

Q: What kind of experience does Boeing have in working with the Air Self Defense Forces?

A: Across both our commercial and defense businesses, Boeing has a relationship with Japan that extends more than 50 years, and has key relationships with the major trading houses and the industry heavies. As it pertains specifically to our relationship with JASDF, Boeing successfully worked with Japanese industry to establish licensed production for both F-4EJ and F-15J fighters. Additionally, JASDF has purchased both AWACS and Tanker aircraft, derivatives of the 767. On the commercial side, Japanese industry plays a major role on the 747-8, 767, 777 and 787 programs .

Q: Why does Boeing think the F-18 is suitable for the program?

A: The Super Hornet provides a variety of advantages for JASDF in particular and Japan as a whole that no other competitor can match.

Specifically:

*       The Super Hornet is the world’s most advanced multirole aircraft, equipped with AESA radar, built-in stealth, integrated avionics, enhanced survivability, a world-class digital fly-by-wire flight control system for unsurpassed maneuverability,  and maintenance features that ensure superb weapons system availability . More than 430 aircraft have been delivered on or ahead of schedule and on budget to the U.S. Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force, and Super Hornet is under consideration in other markets around the world . The Super Hornet’s twin-engine configuration allows for greater safety and survivability , and the design is optimized for both air defense missions and other defensive roles in the maritime approaches of Japan.

*       The active production line that features lean manufacturing processes enables Boeing to offer the Super Hornet to JASDF at the best price relative to the competition. These same lean processes would allow Japanese industry to enter the program at a more affordable price than its competitors.  Super Hornet has a bright future on the international market. At the Farnborough Air Show this year we introduced our international roadmap which will continue Super Hornet’s capability growth. This roadmap would certainly offer opportunities for Japanese industry .

*       Another example of Super Hornet’s growth potential is the electronic attack provided by the EA-18G Growler. This Super Hornet derivative provides an extremely valuable mission capability, not only for the US Navy but for employment by all four US military services. As you may know, half of Australia’s Super Hornets will be wired to accept Growler technology should it choose to acquire that capability.

Q: On a cost basis, how does the F-18 stack up against the competition? Let’s assume the competition is the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

A: In the areas of acquisition cost and total lifecycle cost, Boeing has the best possible offering, regardless of the competition. Super Hornet’s low production cost, high reliability and low maintenance design features should make it the low cost offering among those competitors.

Q: The F-X program is meant to replace Japan’s F-4J Phantom fighters, the first of which were built in 1971. Japan wants to start retiring them this decade, which makes fielding a replacement as soon as possible a priority. If a decision were made in 2011 to go with the Super Hornet, how soon could Japan start receiving planes? For the sake of argument let’s assume that these planes would be 100% made in the U.S.A. with 100% American components.

A: If Japan were to place an order for Super Hornet in 2011 we could be delivering aircraft in Japan in early 2015.

Q: Boeing has previously stated that it is willing to outsource some production of Japanese Hornet fighters to Japanese firms. What parts of the aircraft does Boeing envision Japanese firms producing?

A: We envision an active and engaged role for Japanese industry if JASDF selects Super Hornet for F-X. We expect to make better than 75% of the aircraft available for licensed production, although Japan may be more selective based on cost and benefit. Our understanding of Japan’s desire is to have full capability to sustain the aircraft in the long term with minimal outside assistance. We think they also want the ability to upgrade the aircraft and integrate new systems indigenously. All of these would be enabled by a licensed production program tailored to those requirements.

Answers provided by Mr. Phil Mills, Boeing F-X Campaign Manager.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 530 post(s) on Japan Security Watch