Boeing announced plans on Thursday to sunset production of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, a trademark of its St. Louis defense business.
New-build production of the fighter jet will end in late 2025 after the company finishes its delivery for the U.S. Navy. It could be extended into 2027 if the Indian Navy orders more aircraft.
Around 1,500 employees work in Boeing’s F/A-18 program, the majority of them based in St. Louis.
“These are highly skilled workers,” said Boeing spokesperson Deborah VanNierop. “Their skills are easily transferred to our other programs.”
The F/A-18 debuted in 1983, and is one of the most well-known aircraft that Boeing builds locally.
“We are planning for our future, and building fighter aircraft is in our DNA,” Steve Nordlund, senior site executive for Boeing St. Louis, said in a statement. “As we invest in and develop the next era of capability, we are applying the same innovation and expertise that made the F/A-18 a workhorse for the U.S. Navy and air forces around the world for nearly 40 years.”
The company announced the plans years in advance both so that it could wind down supplies that have long lead times, and to allow time to transition workers into different programs.
Boeing said it still plans to hire in St. Louis, over the next five years. The company added 900 jobs in the region in 2022, many of them engineers, another signal of a shift toward future products.
Boeing will continue to do maintenance and upgrades on the F/A-18s, work that could continue for decades.
Boeing employs about 15,800 people in the St. Louis area, its second-largest workforce after Washington state.
Its St. Louis operations are largely in defense products, including the F-15, the T-7A trainer and the MQ-25 refueling drone. The company makes two F/A-18s per month.
Boeing said the decision will allow it to devote more resources toward next-generation military aircraft, and toward ramping up production of other craft, including the T-7A Red Hawk, a training craft, and the MQ-25 Stingray, a refueling drone. The company makes a small number of MQ-25 drones in St. Louis County, and plans to make more at a new assembly line in Mascoutah, which is slated for completion in 2024.
The decision was not altogether unexpected. The Pentagon has been working to phase out purchases of Boeing’s legacy fighters from its defense budgets as it focuses on a next-generation fighter jet.
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