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Boeing Retires F/A-18 Super Hornet: The End of an Era for Top Gun: Maverick’s Iconic Fighter Jet

Boeing Co. has announced its plans to discontinue the production of its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet, marking the end of an era for a flagship aircraft that has served the US Navy for over four decades. The move comes as the aerospace giant looks to focus on new military aircraft programs, freeing up resources to support advanced crewed and un-crewed aircraft projects. The Super Hornet featured prominently in the 2022 movie Top Gun: Maverick, with Tom Cruise reprising his role in a 1980s movie about a Navy pilot. The sequel got positive reviews and was among the highest-grossing movies of last year.



According to a statement released by Boeing on Thursday, the company will stop manufacturing the Super Hornet after delivering the final unit to the US Navy in late 2025. Boeing expects to move the 1,500 workers who currently support the Super Hornet production line to other military aircraft programs, such as the T-7 trainer.

The decision to shut down the Super Hornet assembly line is part of Boeing's broader strategy to focus on next-generation military aircraft. The company plans to expand its workforce in its St. Louis defense hub for the next five years and build three new facilities there for advanced aircraft programs.

Boeing's spokeswoman declined to comment on the planes that will be built in the new facilities but noted that the company does work on classified programs for the US government as well as the company's secretive Phantom Works research arm in the region.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is the second iconic Boeing aircraft to retire this month after the delivery of the final 747 jumbo jet on February 1. The fighter has been a key franchise for Boeing's defense division since the company merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997. Originally developed by McDonnell Douglas in the 1970s, the F/A-18 Hornet was the first aircraft to have carbon-fiber wings and the first tactical jet fighter equipped with digital, fly-by-wire controls.

The Hornets entered active duty in 1983 and flew their first combat missions three years later on the USS Coral Sea. The fighters played key roles during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and provided around-the-clock battlefield coverage in Afghanistan a decade later. The Super Hornet, a larger version with more powerful engines, began service in 1999.

Despite its storied history, Super Hornet sales dwindled in recent years as prospective customers like Germany and Canada opted for Lockheed Martin Corp.'s newer, stealthier F-35 fighters. Aerospace consultant Richard Aboulafia noted that while Boeing is still vying to sell F/A-18 fighters to India, France's Rafale fighter is thought to be the prohibitive favorite.

Boeing said that if the Indian Navy selects its plane, it could continue making Super Hornets for another two years. However, the company's decision to end production of the fighter jet marks the end of an era for a flagship aircraft that has served the US Navy with distinction for over 40 years.

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