Editor’s Note: Boeing has been hit hard by not being awarded the contract for the Air Force’s B-21 Long Range Strike-Bomber. The company has suffered some internal shake-up of late and that, coupled with the prospect of the F-15 line closing, as well as that of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing is currently faced with the real possibility of being done with combat aircraft production by the end of the decade. That being said, there is still hope–thanks for foreign government interest in both the Super Hornet and variants of the F-15. Another card they have to play is the U.S. Navy’s wish list for the FY 2017 budget, which includes 14 Super Hornets.

The loss of the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber contract to rival Northrop Grumman in October has placed Boeing’s defense business in a tough spot. But a list of “unfunded priorities” submitted to Congress by the U.S. Navy could breathe $1.5 billion in new life into the aerospace giant’s fighter jet business, potentially sustaining key production lines until Boeing can find new foreign customers for aircraft like the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

The U.S. Navy wish list for fiscal 2017 submitted to Congress by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus includes 14 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, two Lockheed F-35Cs, and another $433 million for an additional guided missile destroyer (which would be built jointly by Huntington Ingalls and General Dynamics).

The F-15SE Silent Eagle, seen here at Boeing's St. Louis Headquarters. (Photo courtesy of Boeing Defense)
The F-15SE Silent Eagle, seen here at Boeing’s St. Louis Headquarters. (Photo courtesy of Boeing Defense)

While there’s no guarantee Congress will move to fund the Super Hornet order, the request could create an opening for Boeing to sustain its F/A-18 production line until a stalled Kuwaiti order for 28 of the aircraft can be finalized.

If the order does materialize it would mark a huge positive development for a Boeing defense unit that could use a break. With legacy fighter jets like Boeing’s F-15 and F/A-18 slated for replacement by Lockheed Martin’s new F-35 and no new combat jet programs up for grabs in the foreseeable future, Boeing’s defense shop finds itself hard pressed to find new customers for its existing aircraft. Without new orders, both the F-15 and F/A-18 production lines will run out of work by the end of the decade, potentially forcing Boeing from the combat jet business altogether.

Clay Dillow’s original article at Fortune can be viewed in its entirety right here.

(Featured photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

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