The Navy's new budget proposal abruptly slashed the future production of at least 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, a move it says will save up to $4.5 billion in future years.
"The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet investment was redirected to fund accelerated development of Next Generation Air Dominance and other key aviation wholeness investments," according to a Navy document provided to reporters highlighting parts of the president’s latest budget request.
"The decision to cease F/A-18 procurement after [FY-21] ensures the Carrier Air Wing will maintain capable strike fighter capacity to pace the most stressing threat through the 2030s," the document continues.
Projections from the FY-20 budget proposal forecasted 12 aircraft in FY-23, 12 in FY-24 and 12 in FY-25. The FY-21 budget completes a three-year multiyear contract, procuring 24 aircraft in FY-21, but then ends the buy at a total of 678 aircraft.
The Navy has said relatively little about Next Generation Air Dominance publicly because the specifics, according to the budget justification documents, are classified. However, NGAD is the Navy's all-encompassing effort to develop a strike fighter that will replace the F/A-18E/Fs.