The foundations of many of America's advanced technologies rest on a healthy industrial base that provides certainty, availability, low risk, and affordability over decades for its products. The design concepts and engineering requirements for multirole fighters are unique and finite. It is also a vital contributor to national security--from the smallest supplier all the way up to the prime contractor.
Producing a fighter jet is a team effort. All the major components come from suppliers who in many cases have decades of experience in their respective fields. Some employ small numbers of employees, while others employ thousands.
In the United States, the F/A-18 Super Hornet industrial footprint spreads across 44 states and is responsible for more than $6 billion in estimated economic impact, including 90,000 jobs. This work supports not only the Navy's Super Hornet fleet, but also the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft. International opportunities for partnerships also show potential to extend the breadth of the Super Hornet industrial base.
This industrial base thrives because it has honed its production processes, driving cost out while delivering increased capability to the U.S. Navy and its allies. Not only does a healthy industrial base fuel current growth, it also allows for future development of technologies and builds a bridge to the future of tactical aviation. Boeing and its industry partners have invested in advanced capabilities such as conformal fuel tanks to greatly increase range and enclosed weapons pods to bring added flexibility to the aircraft. All of these innovations stem from the fact that the Super Hornet has a stable, efficient, and proven industrial base.
A healthy industrial base also provides flexibility. Presently, there are two domestic fighter prime contractors. In time, that could shrink to one--a development that carries great risk. Once critical design, engineering, and production skills leave the aerospace industry, it is very hard to recover them. Some smaller suppliers could permanently exit the aerospace business, if not fold entirely.
Here's more information about the Super Hornet.