WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy’s fiscal 2016 budget plan would pay for 492 manned and unmanned aircraft, including 13 F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp , but omits any funding for Boeing Co F/A-18 fighters or EA-18G electronic attack jets.
Last year, the Navy also omitted EA-18G jets, or Growlers, from its base budget request, but later told Congress on an “unfunded priority list” that it wanted $2.1 billion to buy 22 more jets, given the growing threat of electronic attacks.
Lawmakers ultimately funded 15 of the jets in the fiscal 2015 budget passed by Congress, which is expected to maintain Boeing’s production line for the jets in St. Louis through the end of 2017, pending a revised contract with the Navy.
It was not immediately clear if the Navy would submit such a request to Congress this year, but Boeing is expected to kick off a major lobbying effort to press for more orders, said Jim McAleese, a Virginia-based defense consultant.
Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney said during an earnings call last week that he expected continued demand for the F/A-18 and EA-18G planes, which are based on the same airframe.
“We’ve regained momentum on F-18s,” McNerney said. “There is a good chance that that line could continue, at least to the end of the decade.”
One defense official said it was not certain if the services would be allowed to submit unfunded “wish lists” to Congress this year, given that the administration is already asking for more funding than permitted under congressional budget caps.
Officials have told lawmakers they would have to cut back many programs, including the F-35 fighter jet, if the budget caps known as sequestration, resumed in fiscal 2016. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal. Editing by Andre Grenon)