WASHINGTON, March 12 (Reuters) - A U.S. Navy study on the Pentagon’s joint electronic warfare needs will highlight the case for more Boeing Co EA-18G attack jets to bolster the effectiveness of carrier strike groups, a top admiral said on Thursday.
Rear Admiral Mike Manazir, director of air warfare for the Navy’s chief of naval operations, said Congress needs to fund some purchases in the fiscal 2016 budget to ensure the aircraft’s availability for future orders if the report’s findings are validated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and certified by top Pentagon leaders.
Manazir said he had no details about the study to be completed this month, but said he was certain it would call for “more than we have.”
“The joint fight is a greater stretcher than just the Navy fight,” he told a small group of reporters. EA-18G aircraft jam enemy radars and other equipment so fighter jets can carry out their attack missions safely.
Boeing this week said it was optimistic about extending the St. Louis production line where it builds F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and the EA-18G Growlers beyond 2017, given recent comments by Navy officials and possible foreign orders.
The company must decide whether to keep the line open by mid-year to make sure parts that have a long production lead time are ordered in time.
Manazir said the Boeing line would shut down and the Navy would lose the option of future orders unless Congress funded some additional aircraft in the fiscal 2016 budget year.
“We have to buy something in (fiscal year) ‘16 for that line to extend,” Manazir said. “The challenge for me is that if the line shuts down ... I now run out of options, and I can’t procure Growlers if the analysis says that we need more.”
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert told Congress this month that the Navy had enough Growlers for its own needs, but he was awaiting the results of the study to better understand the needs of the other military services.
He also said the Navy faced a potential shortfall of up to 36 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in coming years, given delays in work on extending the life of older C-model F/A-18s and greater than expected use of the newer model Super Hornets.
Greenert is expected to include some Super Hornets on a list of “unfunded priorities” that Congress will use as it shapes the Navy’s budget request for fiscal 2016, which begins Oct. 1. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Alan Crosby)