ST. LOUIS–Officials from Boeing‘s [BA] military aircraft division have begun providing information on the company’s new international variant of its F/A-18 fighter to Joint Strike Fighter partner nations, which may be searching for a hedge against potential delays in F-35 deliveries, a senior company executive recently said.

While declining to name the specific JSF partner nations that have requested information on the F/A-18, Chris Chadwick, Boeing’s president of military aircraft, said “a number of potential F-35 customers have asked for information, so they can make the best decision going forward should they need to go in a different direction.”

However, the Boeing executive did note that Australia has already stated publicly their desire to buy a number of Super Hornets “because they believed the capability that they had planned on would not be there in time,” he added during an April 20 briefing at Boeing’s offices here.

“So we are out there talking to a number of potential customers, just to provide them with information,” Chadwick said. Company officials are also eyeing possible Super Hornet deals with India, Brazil, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore and several countries in the Middle East, he said during a speech earlier that day, commerating the 500th Super Hornet to roll off the production line.

Along with Australia and the United States, partner nations in the JSF program include the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway. Israel and Singapore are also participating in the program, but not as full partners.

The company’s latest foray into the global fighter market comes at a particularly difficult time for the JSF program.

In over a year, the Defense Department has ordered a major restructuring of the F-35’s cost and schedule, canceled plans for an alternative engine in the face of congressional concerns and threatened to kill one of the three variants of the next-generation fighter. The Pentagon has given JSF program officials two years to get the F-35B, the short- takeoff and vertical landing variant, back on schedule and under cost.

It is into this environment that Boeing unveiled the “Super Hornet International Roadmap” version of the Navy fighter being offered to JSF partners and others countries this week. The fighter, according to company officials, will allow potential international customers “to tailor it to whatever [capability] they would like, whether it is indigeous capability or whether it is capabilty that has already been designed, developed and integrated.”

This adaptability advantage in this version of the F/A-18 being pushed onto the international defense market by Boeing will give the company “a big edge” compared to other aircraft, “whether it is Eurofighter or the F-35 or the Rafale or the MiG” and even some fifth-generation aircraft, according to Chadwick.

The new international variant of the plane has not been flight tested yet, but is undergoing wind tunnel testing, Kory Matthews, Boeing’s vice president for F/A-18 programs, told reporters that same day.

When asked if any technology currently available on Navy versions of the Super Hornet–such as low observability and other sensitive capabilities–would be withheld or not offered to international partners, Matthews said everything would be on the table, “based on where the country wants to go with it.” He declined to comment on what impact the new international Super Hornet would have on the JSF program.

However, the company has “never been a big believer” in classifying its military aircraft, particularly its fighter fleet, in generational terms, Chadwick said “We believe that what the customer wants is next-generation [technology] when it is available and when can you incorporate it” as opposed to the set definitions of fourth, fifth or sixth generation fighters, Chadwick said.

That mentality, he added, is already commonplace in the commerical sector. “You do not want to limit yourself,” he said.

That said, Boeing is on the cusp of “a historic window of about three to six years” where international demand to recapitalize fighter fleets, coupled with declining domestic spending on military hardware, will create a significant surge in global sales of the F/A-18 and other platforms, Chadwick said.

Another major interational program that Boeing military aviation officials are looking to get into is Saudi Arabia’s expansive effort to revamp a portion of its naval forces. The Saudi Naval Expansion Program II (SNEP II), which has been estimated to total over tens of billions of dollars in foreign military sales, is designed to outfit the country’s eastern fleet with a variety of new hardware, from ships to aircraft.

Navy officials plan to have formal pricing proposals for both the Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Austal USA versions of the Littoral Combat Ship to the Saudis. Lockheed Martin is also considering supplying the country with a number of its MH-60 helicopters as part of the SNEP II program.

On possible participation in Saudi naval expansion plans, Chadwick said Boeing’s role would be via foreign military sales, which are negotiated primarily through government to government talks, with “a lot of different variables in [those] discussions, some of which we are privy to and some of which we are not.”

Chadwick declined to comment whether pricing and availablity data for the F/A-18 has been provided to the Saudis, and would not discuss any other specifics of that poential deal.

“Suffice to say, we believe that the products that we have are exactly what the Saudis might like, and we are going to let those discussions play out,” he said. “At some point in the future, should they agree, then the Boeing company will get involved.”