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Navy has to wait for F-35 and will extend the life of its F-18

The United States Navy plans to battle an expected fighter gap by keeping its oldest F/A-18 Hornet fighter craft in the air over the next 10 years, even though major concerns remain related to the next-generation of fighter aircraft.

There is a concern if the Navy halts F-18 production, an expected fighter gap of about 200 aircraft could dampen the Navy's air superiority.  Specifically, there is a concern the fighter gap will impact the Navy's aircraft carrier fleet, as the F-18 Hornet remains a popular aircraft for use in missions from carriers.

However, Navy Rear Adm. Mike Manazir and Lockheed Martin said it may be possible the next-generation Joint Strike Fighter F-35C aircraft will be ready for deployment in late 2016.  

Last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the F-18 would be phased out as the Navy transitioned to the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet -- but delays, engine problems, and budget issues have led some to lose faith in the program.

The GE/Rolls-Royce F136 engine has been given a lifeline -- for now -- and will be funded as an alternative to the current F135 engine from Pratt & Whitney.

"The Marine Corps is committed to an all-STOVL force,” Manazir recently claimed.  That means “we are in discussions with the Marine Corps on how we would” integrate the two services’ fighters on a carrier.  The F-35C has longer range, more cargo capacity, and is optimized for carrier operations,” he said. “The STOVL [model] is designed differently and so it has slightly different characteristics, so we’re in discussions right now about how you put those two together.”

The USMC plans to replace the F/A-18 with the F-35 as well, but needs to deal with  the same production issues the Navy and Air Force must deal with.  The Air Force hasn't thrown in the towel on the JSF -- and doesn't plan on leaving it behind.

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The Hornet is a POS.
By NAVAIR on 5/27/2010 4:18:23 PM , Rating: 3
There is nothing similar between a Hornet (A/B; C/D) and a Super Hornet (E/F) other than some avionics boxes. The Hornet is a compromise, its a half ass fighter and a half ass bomber with less performance than the Tom's or A-6's. My god, ass soon as a Hornet takes a cat shot, it needs to refuel. The only thing that will be left on the flight deck are Helo's, Hummers and Hornet's very soon. The F35 is another compromise, I am sure its better than a Hornet although the F35 vs a Raptor would be another story. The Raptor renders every fighter in the world obsolete. The Navy needs a dedicated fighter and a dedicated bomber although the money is not there to support to programs not to mention the streamlining of the logistical process. The Carrier Air Force is not designed today to have the same range or massive ordnance delivery of the 8 airframes than were flown 14 years ago. One A-6 can drop 3 times the ordnance of the Hornet and has almost 3 times the legs. Maybe they should just kill carriers all together and buy a bunch of predators at this rate with the way congress has cut the money off to support the Navy , Bill Clinton started this trend and 18 years later, the damage is done.

RE: The Hornet is a POS.
By NAVAIR on 5/27/2010 4:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, the old motto of the Tom's, " if its not leaking is broke" now apply's to the old Hornets as well.

RE: The Hornet is a POS.
By Jaybus on 5/27/2010 11:04:36 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think UAVs could replace carriers, but a few cruisers with lots of UAVs could certainly take a load off of the existing carriers and their flight ops. I see no reason UAVs couldn't more or less take over recon missions.

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