SAN ANTONIO – Boeing San Antonio is officially kicking off a program to upgrade U.S. Navy fighter and attack planes that is expected to bring about 500 jobs to San Antonio.
Boeing was awarded a one-year contract to continue modernizing the Navy's fleet of F/A-18 Super Hornets at its San Antonio site. The $164 million contract falls under the Service Life Modification program and aims to extend the life of existing Super Hornets from 6,000 to 10,000 flight hours, which will keep them in active service for decades, according to Boeing.
The San Antonio site is scheduled to receive 23 Super Hornets over the course of the contract, which includes a one-year option for FY 2020, too.
However, Boeing San Antonio is planning for a much longer time frame.
The SLM program is being undertaken at both the St. Louis and San Antonio sites, with San Antonio taking the majority of the Navy's more than 550 F/A-18s, according to Site Leader Jay Galloway.
"It'll take about 10 years to work all the airplanes. We anticipate about 400 to 500 Super Hornets rolling through," said Galloway, who also confirmed the project would mean hiring "approximately" 500 more people.
The total number of the fighter jets that go through the San Antonio site may actually be lower than the 400 to 500, Galloway quoted. The site's full workload would be 32 planes per year -- a level Boeing expects to reach by the fourth quarter of 2022, according to a spokesman.
Though work on the first two F/A-18s began in June, Boeing officials were joined Monday by city leaders and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and news conference.
"I think what Boeing has found is San Antonio is a great place to do business," Cornyn told media members. "And there's always going to be a need for these air frames and for these fighter aircraft for our Navy and for our war fighters. So I think this is just the beginning, and it will grow from here."
The SLM program will be a novel addition to Boeing San Antonio, which is used to working on larger aircraft such as the C-17 Globemaster.
"So getting a chance to work on an F-18 -- a fighter -- is an exciting prospect for all of us," Galloway said.
Watch ribbon cutting and news conference: