MANAMA Jan 21 Kuwait's air force is sticking to
plans to purchase Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet to replace
ageing fighter jets, despite a lengthy congressional approval
process in Washington that has frustrated industry players.
"The Super Hornet is one of the best solutions for us,"
Abdullah Al Foudary, commander of the Kuwait Air Force, said on
the sidelines of an industry event in Bahrain. "We have the
legacy F-18s that we have to find a solution for in 2030-2040."
U.S. industry executives and military officials have grown
increasingly concerned about delays in approving the sale of 28
Boeing F/A-18E/F fighter jets to Kuwait, a deal valued at around
The fighter planes are of increasing importance to Kuwait
amid rising regional tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran,
after an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran by protestors
angry over the execution of a Saudi Shi'ite cleric.
Kuwait, an ally of Saudi Arabia, is also part of the
Saudi-led coalition against Yemen and is primarily supporting
that effort with its air force and F/A-18s.
Al Foudary said the air force would play the most important
role in addressing regional threats.
"We have to set up priorities and buy new capabilities so we
can cope in this situation," he said.
Boeing must decide in coming weeks whether to start building
the jets using its own funding to ensure that materials that
take years to procure are on hand when needed.
The company is likely to make that investment as a bridge to
additional U.S. Navy orders expected in fiscal 2018, according
to a source familiar with the issue.
The company is anxiously awaiting the release of the
Pentagon's fiscal 2017 budget plan on Feb. 9 to see if the Navy
orders even a few jets in fiscal 2017, potentially through a
separate war-spending supplement.
U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last week said foreign
military sales helped ensure continued production of U.S.
weapons systems, such as the Boeing Co F/A-18E/F fighter jet,
and also helped the U.S. military and its allies work seamlessly
in joint military operations.
But Mabus called for continued efforts to accelerate what he
described as a slow and "torturous" approval process for
military sales to foreign customers.
(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, Editing by William
Maclean and Tom Heneghan)