It's been the backbone of naval aviation for four decades and now, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly called attention to the program, the F-18 is getting a second life.
Last week, the final 2017 federal budget allotted $1.1 billion for 14 new Super Hornet fighter jets.
While it wasn't the 24 fighter jets at $2.3 billion the president had proposed in his supplemental budget proposal, it marked a win nonetheless: the original Defense Department budget proposal, released early last year, had requested none.
"We always thought that the Navy buying additional Super Hornets made sense because they need airplanes to last into the 2040s," said Dan Gillian, head of Boeing's F/A-18 and EA-18 programs.
Of course Boeing would think that — and it may have made sense. Still, until recently, the F-18 program had been viewed by many to be a production line on life support, as newer planes including Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter roll off assembly lines and into future U.S. carrier air wings.
Now, "St. Louis and the fighter business stays on for the next round of programs," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Virginia-based industry consultancy Teal Group. "It didn't look like that would be the case a year ago. Super Hornet orders had been expected to be down by end of decade."