Home » Aviation » Mattis Orders Comparison Review of F-35C and Advanced Super Hornet


Mattis Orders Comparison Review of F-35C and Advanced Super Hornet

An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, into a 45-degree dive during an external GBU-12 weapons separation test February 18, 2016. US Navy Photo

An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, into a 45-degree dive during an external GBU-12 weapons separation test February 18, 2016. US Navy Photo

Defense Secretary James Mattis is ordering a Pentagon review to compare the capabilities and cost between the emerging carrier-based Lockheed Martin F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter and an upgraded version of the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, according to a memo obtained by USNI News.

The three-paragraph directive orders Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work to, “oversee a review that compares F-35C and F/A-18 E/F operational capabilities and assesses the extent that F/A-18E/F improvements (an advanced Super Hornet) can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative.”

The memo also directs Work to look at the overall F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to find opportunities to significantly reduce cost while maintaining the requirements for the program.

The Work reviews are set to inform upcoming budget decisions, read the memo.

In a Friday statement to reporters, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said, “this is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary’s recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities.”

The new review follows then President-elect Donald Trump’s December declaration that he wanted Boeing to price out a comparable Super Hornet to an F-35 as a cost saving measure.

Navy officials referred questions on the review to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

However, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said as late as last week the Navy needed the capability the JSF brought to the service as well as unmanned aircraft in a blended airwing of existing and future aircraft.

“We need the F-35s,” he said during a Defense One event, according to a report in Investor’s Business Daily.
“That is our 5th-gen capability which we need, supplemented by [a] healthy cadre of advanced Super Hornets.”

While the Navy wants the F-35, the need for the service is set to use the highly networked, stealthy aircraft differently from the F-35 A and B models for the Air Force and the Marine Corps.

The F-35 is set to be a key node in the service’s emerging Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) concept that weds the information from ships and aircraft into a combat network in which a Navy JSF could pass back targeting information to weapons launched from another ship or aircraft.

F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon's (NASF) Range Training Complex on Sept. 3, 2015. US Navy photo.

F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex on Sept. 3, 2015. US Navy photo.

“The Navy’s idea was much more about, the F-35 has a command and control node that might be part of a strike package that’s mostly F/A-18s rather than F-35s doing a whole strike mission by themselves, which is what the Air Force model might be,” Bryan Clark, naval analyst Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) and former special assistant to past Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, told USNI News on Friday.
“We’re going to use the F-35 more as an enabler and a strike lead and as a command and control platform than as a fighter platform on its own.”

While the public has paid more attention to split between the JSF and the Super Hornet since Trump’s comments in December, the idea of an upgraded, stealthier F/A-18 E/F is not new.

In 2013, Boeing revealed the Advanced Super Hornet concept that took the existing design and added new sensors, a stealthy pod that would provide some of the radar cross section reduction of an internal weapons bay, dorsal conformal fuel tanks to extend the range of the fighter and new engines.

An artist's concept of a F/A-18 E Advanced Super Hornet. Boeing Image

An artist’s concept of a F/A-18 E Advanced Super Hornet. Boeing Image

But even with the improvements the basic design of the aircraft – the planform – of the Super Hornet isn’t as well suited to evading detection by radar like the F-35, Clark said.

“You’re kind of limited that you haven’t redesigned the aircraft to reduce the signatures,” he said.

While the Navy has continued to be committed to the JSF in public, internally, the service has more than once considered reducing its F-35 buy as a bill payer for other service needs during budget deliberations. The Navy is also faced with a growing near-term strike fighter shortfall that could be mitigated with the purchase of additional F/A-18 E/F in the short term.

How the review will inform guidance to the Navy in the future is still unclear, but as costs for the F-35s continue to come down the carrier F-35Cs could be priced to be more competitive with the advanced F/A-18 E/F

“If you’re saving just $10 million an airplane it might not be worth switching horses midstream,” Clark said.

 

  • John Locke

    Of course Comrade Trumpsky wants a review

    “You’re kind of limited that you haven’t redesigned the aircraft [F/A-18] to reduce the signatures,”

    Would make it easier for his Russian pals to detect

    • Andre

      You know very well that everyone questions the F-35 until they receive the classified briefing on its EW capabilities 😉

      • CharleyA

        Meanwhile, the Navy continues to buy EA-18s. That should inform the unwashed.

        • Andre

          While the F-35 does both roles…

          • CharleyA

            But not in all bands nor as well as the EA-18.

          • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

            Because those capabilities have never been integrated into the lightning.

            take those twirly-wheel powered pods off the Growler and then compare EW capabilities to the Lightning…..
            Or, put those twirly-wheel powered jamming pods on a lightning and then compare to the Growler!

            On that level playing field, the growler doesn’t win.

          • Marauder 2048

            That was before the F-35 got its Band 2/5 EW capability added to the SDD effort. Should complete by the time the F-35C IOCs.

          • CharleyA

            You mean the: “Electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, including electronic attack (EA), are inconsistent and, in some cases, not effective against required threats” noted in the latest DOT&E report; or the equipment that is planned to be added in Block 4.2? In either case, it will not be as effective as a purpose built, human managed, dedicated EA aircraft. And note that there is a difference between “EW” and “EA.” Maybe when they get around to integrating the NGJ into the F-35, but that’s not even scheduled for a future block yet – likely pushed into the 2030s. Meanwhile, IOC for NGJ is 2020 on the EA-18.

          • displacedjim

            So, just like everyone in DoD has known all along, there are always certain select sub-sets of the overall mission that any one given aircrat type can best satisfy, and therefore we will never use just one single aircraft type to fight a war.

          • Duane

            We’ve always had a variety of aircraft involved in EW and anti-SAM Wild Weasel missions, both USAF and USN. And the fact is that the lead time required to develop any new generation of any kind of warbird dictates that there be overlap between deployed aircraft of at least two gens at any time.

          • CharleyA

            Correct.

          • Rocco

            Good point but that’s the intent here!! Eventually this will be the future. It has to have roots somewhere as the direct roots for the F-35’s is the F-117 stealth fighter!!

          • Marauder 2048

            Band 2/5 EW is coming in with Block 3F.

            NGJ is heavier and draggier than its predecessor which means when added to the heavier and draggier version of the draggiest fighter built in the 21st century (the Super Bug) you have a dedicated EA fast jet with poor range and endurance.

            The Growler has limited self-defense capability and awareness and no growth room. And the effectiveness of monolithic jammers against moderns IADS is marginal at best.

            Every F-35 will have excellent if less than optimal EW/EA capability but of course it has that no matter the configuration.

          • CharleyA

            Assuming that the final configuration is as you say, it is still happening. Then there’s those AIM-120s that Growlers carry. Oh and the conjecture that “monolithic jammers against moderns IADS is marginal at best,” please provide a source – I am very interested.

          • Marauder 2048

            A lot of things are still happening for the Navy out of inertia and intellectual stupor.
            Hopefully, it won’t take correction from the enemy to change things.

            Has the Growler ever demonstrated an operationally representative AIM-120D shot while in EA mode?

            Heck, the Super Bug hasn’t demonstrated a multi-shot AIM-120 capability despite billions having been spent on a mediocre AESA that was justified on that basis.

            STAP is rendering most forms of monolithic standoff jamming marginal in the same way that monopulse seekers rendered most forms of onboard, self-protect jamming marginal.

          • CharleyA

            Meanwhile, the Navy continues to procure Growlers.

          • Marauder 2048

            They didn’t make it into the FY2017 NDAA so no.

          • CharleyA

            Deliveries scheduled for CY17:
            JAN: 2; FEB: 2; MAR: 2; APR: 3; JUN: 2; JUL: 2; AUG: 2; SEP: 2; OCT: 2; NOV: 2; DEC: 1.

            Deliveries scheduled for CY18:
            JAN: 1; MAR: 1; APR: 2; MAY: 2; JUN: 2.

            SASC Chairman recommends:
            FY19: 4; FY20: 4; FY21: 4; FY22: 4.

            Of course, a supplemental is in the works, so we might be seeing some adds for FY17.

            So… yes.

          • Marauder 2048

            Deliveries lag procurement by years.

            There were no Growlers in the NDAA FY 2017 bill that was signed into law. Since there has been no attrition of Growlers there is no justification for additional units.

          • Rocco

            That’s not true!!

          • airider

            Without added hardware, it’s all trade space. F-35 can’t use all its systems for all missions types at the same time. All hardware has duty cycle limits that software simply can’t overcome.

          • Marauder 2048

            There is added hardware; check out the contracts or DOT&E.

            “F-35 can’t use all its systems for all missions types at the same time”

            That’s not what even DOT&E reports.

          • Rocco

            And when will that be??

          • Marauder 2048

            2018.

          • Rocco

            Yes I know but I don’t think it will get it done by then!

          • Duane

            How would you know? Are you cleared to know that? Certainly anyone not directly engaged in our EW efforts would not be cleared to know precisely what the Growler can do vs. the F-35C outfitted for the Wild Weasel mission.

          • Rocco

            Agreed!

          • Rocco

            Not really !!! Now!! anyway & not proven.

          • Andre

            Kind of like how AirLand Battle was not proven until Desert Storm?

          • Rocco

            Relevance?? We’re talking about a jet here!!

        • Duane

          Thanks for your condescension, Charley A – it’s typical of your comments on the F-35 as one of the cadre of professional (and I mean that literally) F-35 critics.

          Yes, the Navy continues to buy fourth gen aircraft, both Growlers and Super Hornets. The procurement plan was set years ago at a total buy of only 260 F-35Cs by the Navy, with another 65 C models by the USMC. It was anticipated that by the time the sixth gen aircraft start deployment in the mid-30s, the Super Hornets and Growlers will be retired, leaving us with a mixed fleet of sixth gens and fifth gens … just as the near term future is of a mixed airfleet of fifth gens and fourth gens, or perhaps 4.5 gens.

      • NavySubNuke

        The real question (and feel free not to answer since the answer is probably classified) then becomes – is the juice worth the squeeze?
        F-35s cost more to buy and cost more per flight hour – is the extra EW capability worth it?
        If it is worth it is there a way to replicate that EW capability in a modified superhornet at a lower cost to procure and per flight hour?
        This review seems like exactly what the Navy needs to do at this point – answer the question once and for all and move on.

        • Duane

          The problem is that any supposed upgraded EW package for the so far non-existent Super Duper Hornet is, well, that the aircraft does not exist. No requirements for such an aircraft exists in the form of a contract procurement. This aircraft is for all intents and purposes just a concept, or vapor-ware, today.

          Given that DOD typically takes about five or more years just to produce a procurement document, with all of the requirements fully set and contract conditions fully defined, for just about any warbird today, and that it typically takes another five years just to produce an operable, but not tested or certified aircraft after the winner of the procurement is determined, it’s at least a decade from today before we could or will have any such Super Duper Hornet that can then be tested, certified, and made operational (another five years), and then you have maybe, what another five years to ramp up production to full rate production? We’re 20 years from having a supposedly “low cost” alternative that is at full rate production (it’s lowest cost of production).

          Well, 20 years from now, our sixth gen aircraft will already be there.

          Why on earth would we waste tens of billions trying to upgrade a 4th gen to a 4.5 gen when by the time its supposed savings are realized (those “savings” are vapor-ware too … airplanes cost what they cost) when by the time it’s there our sixth gens will have already began to make our fifth gens obsolete, let alone any 4.5 gens.

          4.5 gen is only a stopgap measure while production ramps up on our fifth gens. It is not a “replacement”.

          • NavySubNuke

            Who cares if our mythical 6th gens make our 4.5 or 5th gens look obsolete. It isn’t about having the shiniest toy or the fastest toy. The point is to have the aircraft we need in the quantity we need to fight and win the nations wars.
            Let the air force waste billions on the shiniest thing they can possibly buy – I want the Navy to buy what the Navy needs not what the navy wants.

          • Duane

            You’re attempting to trivialize massive differences in capability that our own qualified pilots have said repeatedly make the F-35 the one aircraft in the world that they prefer to go to war with over any other in the US arsenal. Their service chiefs agree with the line pilots. If you want to argue with the guys who actually have been there, done that, flown all of the birds, then take it up with them. The services are driving the development of new weapons, not politicians, or even the arms manufacturers.

            Have you ever heard of DARPA?

            6th gen is hardly “mythical” – despite your attempt to trivialize it, technology constantly goes forward, not backwards, and sixth gen is the next revolution to come. There will be many future generations of weapons to come, they always have, they always will.

            It takes decades to develop a new generation warbird. Planning for sixth gen is already underway, with the services for now focusing on what their concept is to be, what the aircraft should be able to do that current fifth gen aircraft are not yet able to do.

          • Rocco

            Dude again you have no idea on who your talking to!! Read his call sign!!

          • NavySubNuke

            I understand that you would rather buy the best and fastest we possibly can no matter the cost and no matter how many we can actually afford and how many hours we could manage to keep them in the air. I get it – that is certainly the most fun answer.
            If we had an unlimited budget you would certainly be correct – but since we don’t have an unlimited budget we have to actually think about these things and make sure we are getting the right plane for the nation. Not just the plane the pilots want to fly.

          • Rocco

            Agreed!!

          • Rocco

            Boeing already has an advanced SH !! It would be a better & practical transition into the Fleet because the basic bird is already in service! The navy traditionally like’s a 2 seater 2 engine aircraft !! It would t take much schooling for the new hornet or make modifications to the ship to support it!! That’s why my carrier never got the tomcat until its last deployment because of the expense !! But then the navy decomed her anyway after spending millions to do it. So go figure!!⚓️

  • Greg Williams

    I’m a little lost in this article: If the Navy’s idea is to use the F-35 as a control node in an F/A-18 package, what use are its low-observable features? Won’t the whole package, or at least the element with the biggest radar cross section, be detected, whether or not the F-35 is?

    And if the goal is an advanced control node, can the required capabilities be retrofitted to an F/A-18, or even pod-mounted?

    • Arthur Vallejo

      The F-35Cs will be hundreds of km. away from missile launching platforms. They will transmit vectors for targets using link 16. Since it takes a millisecond to transmit data no localization of F-35 should occurr.

      • Greg Williams

        So, if these control nodes can be hundreds of km away, why do they need to be in expensive, un-tested platforms like the F-35? Why not stick them in an F/A-18 or an E-2?

        • displacedjim

          The “control node” is not some discrete box inside the F-35, the “control node” *IS* the F-35–the complete package of all its systems working together.

          • Greg Williams

            That makes is sound like the very shape and structure of the aircraft is critical to its role as a control node. That sounds extraordinarily implausible to me.

            If you’d like me to believe you, perhaps you could start by explaining to me the difference between the NIFC-CA capabilities of an E-2 and your use of the term “control node”. Until you do, your contention that only an F-35 can be a control node will be very hard for me to understand.

            As an aside, I don’t mean to diminish the work that goes into systems integration with a platform like the F-35, nor the ambitious vision that went into the F-35, nor all the good intentions and hard work that have gone into the program. Unfortunately, the combination of all of these things doesn’t guarantee success.

          • Duane

            Yup – it’s not like the electronic guts or brain of the F-35 are an option one can order on their Super Hornet. Every square milimeter of that aircraft is designed and integrated together to achieve its objectives .. from the “distributed apurture sensors” to the special stealth coating to the design and layout of the internal weapons bay to its latest gen AESA radar to its plug and play EW pod to its engine design, with its stealth air inlets and exhaust designed to dissipate energy that might be detected by an IR homing device.

            If the armchair generals want a commercial analogy, it’s like going to your Lambourghini dealer and attempting to purchase one of their engines to install in your Chevy Malibu.

        • Duane

          The F-35 is not “untested”. The A and B models are operational, having completed all of the operational certification testing necessary to do so. Every single munition that the F-35 is currently designed to carry and which itself is already fully developed and deployed to the fleet, has already been fully tested and certified, using the latest-in-development Block 3F software, which has been in beta testing the last year. Final release of Block 3F is anticipated in early FY2018.

          The C model is not yet operational, because it had a more complex set of requirements to meet than the other models, being carrier launched on our big-deck CVNs. Last year – 2016 – was the first year time that all corners of the operational envelope were tested in active carrier ops … among other things, it revealed an issue with the nosegear damping on cat launches at very low takeoff weights (which would not be normally encountered in typical carrier missions, but is still a concern and will require a fix before the C model is certified IOC).

          Currently, the Navy anticipates declaration of IOC for the C model in FY2019 … the end of CY2018 or early CY2019.

      • CharleyA

        If they use Link-16, they won’t be stealthy. There needs to be a gateway asset that can translate MADL to Link-16. Maybe one of the SH / Growlers will carry a pod. The USAF is working on such a system.

        • Duane

          You keep repeating this fallacy over and over. The Link-16 transmits only in micro-second data bursts, it’s not the pilot having a conversation in real time with another party … it does not transmit anything that can be useful for any purpose by an enemy listening in.

          • Refguy

            Knowing that there are Link-16 – equipped platforms around and have lines of bearing is certainly useful information.

        • Arthur Vallejo

          Thanks for the intelligence. Very interesting how F-35C can synergistically enhance combat capabilities of Super Hornet and other naval assets. It is concerning that the President and most of America does not seem to firmly grasp the long term necessity of F-35. If a war with China erupts how is Super Hornet going to fare against hundreds of Fankers let alone J-20 and J-31.

          • CharleyA

            PT is simply trying to influence the contractors to lower their pricing sooner. It looks like there will be money to return to the original purchase plan – al least for the USAF and USMC which will satisfy LM/Pratt and their subs. But there seems to be continued internal debate on exactly how many F-35Cs the USN actually needs, and if the F-35C is the best platform to recapitalize the retiring F/A-18Cs (there are only a handful left in service.) Maybe we’ll get enough to fill out one squadron per CVW. We do know the Navy will be asking for a substantial number of Super Hornets in the next few years, and the SASC chairman has even proposed a number. Whether those have some ASH components will be interesting to watch – most of the proposed ASH features have already been prototyped, and some have flown.

          • Arthur Vallejo

            Thanks for the reply. President Trump is not as eloquent as Pres. Obama with his fondness for sound bytes, but he is gifted at seeing the big picture & has a B.S. in economics from U Penn. I feel that he has our backs and is a much more compassionate man than the media portrays. Only our armed services know the full capability/weakness profiles of each jet. And RCS trade-offs against speed/kinematic performance is a complex parameter to grasp in a dynamic large scale combat scenario with intense electronic warfare and cyber attack with a peer state. Our fighting men and women sacrifice so much for people like me so I feel strongly that they should have the best equipment.

          • Rocco

            That’s a good analogy of being unselfish in thinking ! Trump is taking the bull by the horns with what he promised ! From a buisness point of view & that’s how how’s gonna run it! Eloquent or not he’s doing more in the 1st week of office than most presidents have done in term!! Even with total disregard for politically correctness . Because if you or we as a nation mull over right & wrong nothing gets done!! . As for what’s right for our military every major program is under review on the needs of its service reguardless of past contract. If determend the program meets its expectations as advertised & isn’t going to rob us tax payers then we will make strides of being able to defend American interest .⚓️

          • Arthur Vallejo

            True, except that the DOD specified the need for JSF in 1995. Is it not way too late to cancel JSF and revert to 1970s designs to fill the need for new fighters and way too early to depend on the arrival of F/A-XX and F-X?

          • Rocco

            Oh no no no yes it is too late!! Now you are being selfish you can’t go backwards.the JSF is already 200 strong. This statement contradicts your reply to CharleyA .LM isn’t some company that you can just tell them where the highway is. They make other air craft including F-16’s . How would you like it Doc?? This would be the right choice to leave us with unfinished business . Look at what happened to the F-22!!. JSF ain’t going no where!!⚓️

          • Arthur Vallejo

            Faith, perseverance and hard work can get JSF where she needs to be?

    • El_Sid

      The point is that it gives you flexibility. Maybe day 1 you’ll be flying F-35-only sorties into enemy territory for SEAD, backed up with Hornets at stand-off range shooting JASSM-ER and MALDs. But then day 2 the Hornets might come in closer with say SDBs and an F-35 using passive sensors in more of a SIGINT role, then on day 3 the Hornets are in close using Paveways and the F-35 has all radars blazing.

      Mixed packages can be very effective – this recalls the experience of the RAF in Libya where we put Typhoons and Tornados together. The Tiffy had all the modern comms and navigation gear and limited ground stores, but Tonka could carry a wider range of weapons (including Brimstone) and had two-man crews that had picked up a lot of experience in Afghanistan of bombing in urban areas. So 2+2=7

  • CharleyA

    The difference is much more than $10M per aircraft. F-35C is almost twice as much as a Super Hornet when purchased in similar quantities.

    • Marauder 2048

      Or Clark (as the CNO’s special assistant) was briefed on Boeing’s price projections for the
      Advanced Super Hornet. Not that anyone found those price projections credible 4 years ago.

      • CharleyA

        New sheriffs are in town, so actual options are allowed to be considered.

      • Duane

        Yup, Marauder … There is nothing intrinsically more expensive on a F-35 than any possible near-equivalent aircraft …. composites and aluminum cost what they cost, engines cost what they cost, electronics cost what they cost. The cost per unit is determined almost entirely by the volume of production due to the high proportion of fixed costs to produce any new aircraft. There are around 50% plus or minus parts compatibility between the various F-35 models. Spread across 3,000+ units, the full rate production cost of the F-35 will always be far lower than the full rate production cost of any Super Duper Hornet that cannot be produced at any comparable volume. The entire F-35C model run as currently projected is only 260 for the USN and another 65 for the USMC – only about 10% of the entire worldwide production of the F-35. Even if we replaced 100% of the F-35C run with an equivalent number of Super Duper Hornets, the volume will be tiny, much like it was with the F-22 when it was finally cancelled.

        The upgraded Super Hornet will almost certainly cost MORE than the full rate production F-35C, and it will be far less capable. And full rate production on any such upgraded Super Hornets, given the well-proven time it takes to procure, design, develop, manufacture, test, certify, deploy and ramp up to full rate production is going to be at least 15 years, probably closer to 20 years, from a standing start today.

        • Rocco

          In your last paragraph half of that is already done! So that’s some exaggeration here! Especially the time!! All that would have to happen is a fly off!! If approved Boeing will have to seriously ramp up its production line! In my opinion the jet is a shoe in!!

      • Rocco

        Great question! But the advanced super hornet wasn’t built yet!

  • airider

    Lately, a lot has been said downplaying the F-35’s low observable capabilities and more is focused on its sensor and communication capabilities. This makes me laugh a bit since this low observable capability is diametrically opposed to the sensor and communications capabilities.

    Folks may try to point to the IR and directional MADL systems which can support keeping F-35 reasonably low observable. IR is unfortunately not able to provide range information making any information sent less than target quality. They could use triangulation, which means more F-35’s airborne to support this, however with their short range, tankers will need to be close by.

    Once an F-35 starts transmitting with its sensors and MADL, regardless of directional-ability, it will become more detectable. MADL is currently a high bandwidth (which means short range) system that only communicates with itself. This means none of the other aircraft can leverage it directly and requires F-35 or other aircraft to convert and transmit the information via Link-16. Since Link-16’s installed base is orders of magnitude larger than MADL or any other system, why aren’t we making directional antennas for Link-16? This would support compatibility with everyone else as well as support low observable comms when needed.

    The APG-81 is a capable radar, but again as soon as it starts transmitting for target detection and ranging or EW, their goes the F-35 low observables.

    Based on the ideas proposed in this article, it would seem putting these sensor capabilities on an aircraft with more range and persistence would be the better bet. That could mean a low observable UAV and/or possibly something like some of the tanker/COD proposals (not the V-22!!!) recently published that may support these missions better.

    Lastly, F-35 has a hot tailpipe making it very detectable to any recent IR sensor…

    The argument that Stealth is dead is a compelling one, and the argument for advanced EW to deal more directly against the threat weapons seems like a better way to go.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      Open to correction, but I think the Lightning has the longest combat radius on internal fuel of any US fighter jet.

      What are the IR metrics on its tail-pipe?

      • Duane

        Yup, at least for Navy and USMC birds (the USAF F-15 currently has longer legs, at least until the new GE adaptive cycle engine is fitted to the F-35 fleet) – the effective combat radius of the F-35C is 60% more than the current Super Hornet, and even 130 nm longer legged radius than the old Tomcats. With the new adaptive cycle engine that GE is currently developing under contract with DOD, it will increase its combat radius another 30-35%, up to about 850 nm.

        • airider

          The problem with your effective combat radius numbers is that it depends on the mission profile as well as weapons load. F-35 can’t carry anything close to either the F-14 or F/A-18’s weapons load with just internals. Putting external weapons on the F-35 to match F-14 and F/A-18 kills both its range and stealth.

          • Rocco

            Inconsistent argument !! It’s not a bomb truck!! It’s to do a precision strike attack in stealth profile!! If the wings are to be loaded up its the same configuration but already ahead of the game with its better radar & sensor fusion!! It’s not about matching older aircraft !!

          • airider

            I was responding to Duane’s post who made the initial comparison…the instant you start changing how things are configured and assessed, than this whole thing becomes moot.

          • Rocco

            Your argument is moot nothing person since I am not shore of your opinion here on apples to oranges Side your on or not? Not that it really matters because the navy should get what’s best for the navy now present & future! It’s the future that’s killer here because we may not know how carrier aviation is going to change & evolve without having a crystal ball regardless of what the airforce needs!!

          • airider

            Think we’re somewhat in agreement. Duane tried to use comparisons that really are Apples and Oranges which is problematic. Also agree that all the Navy can do is look to get the best options for Navy’s needs. Adapting an Air Force design to Navy’s needs has a history of failure….even the F/A-18 was originally an Air Force design (YF-17).

          • Rocco

            Yeah but only for a fair comparison in a fly off & the navy got wind of it. The F-4 being a Navy jet but just finished 53 hrs of service with the Airforce! The Navy was all in for a upgrade F-4S ‘s from scratch other than upgrading more J models that were tired ! Then the F-18 became out of the YF-17. The F-4 was dropped like a hot potato!

          • airider

            Agree. The F-4 was dropped for a lot more reasons than just the F/A-18 though…so were most of the Vietnam era aircraft. The biggest reason being cost after the war was over, and Carter coming into office.

          • Rocco

            Cost had nothing to do with it!! The UK bought the last batch of F-4J&S with low hr’s after the war was over. The FA-18 was the icing on the cake!⚓️

          • airider

            You aware of the lightweight fighter competition??? It was about the reality of both the eventual F-14’s and F-15’s cost and how to field a large enough force of fighters to take on and beat the very cheap MIG-21, which the F-4 struggled with.

          • Rocco

            Yes already discussed here by me!!

          • Duane

            Actually, Rocco, the F-35 IS a bomb truck, when it needs to be one. Carries as large or larger a weaps load (18K) than any other fighter/attack aircraft in the US arsenal. If performing ground attack in permissive environments (after the enemy SAM radars and fighters have been taken out), stealth is no longer necessary. This is the most versatile F/A in the world.

          • Rocco

            Yes it can I know that!! But not its primary mission as it is to fly clean!

          • Duane

            The published combat radius is with full load of fuel and 18K of weaps.

            The F-35 has a larger fuel capacity than the Super Hornet,and its single enginel which is always more fuel efficient than any two engines of the same total thrust, and it’s more aerodynamic being made mostly of composites.

            As for putting exterior weaps and maintaining stealth, the US and Brits are already well on the way to developing stealthy external weaps to mount on the external hard points. Indeed, part of the claimed rationale of the Super Duper Hornet is doing just that, providing stealth weaps pods because there is no internal bay on a F/A 18. To give a smaller RCS to external weaps is actually fairly easy – it’s just a matter of providing an external sheathing or nacelle that is shaped to not reflect radar, and give it the same coating used on the F-35 itself. The Brits have already designed their AIM-132 AAM to have a low RCS for external mounting on their F-35Bs which they are about to receive. And Boeing has already developed stealthy conformal external fuel tanks for their F-15SE “silent Eagle”, a 4.5 gen version of the old F-15.

        • Rocco

          That’s if LM agrees to change the engines!!

      • airider

        Hot enough that the Navy has had to upgrade the decks on all its amphibs twice now to handle the higher temperatures at considerable cost.

        Published range of F/A-18E/F = 2,069 mi

        Published range of the F-14D = 2,360 mi

        Published range of F-35 = 1,375 mi

        These are all ferry ranges….

        • Rocco

          That comat range for the SH is not internal fuel alone!!!

          • airider

            These are not combat ranges…and I never claimed the F/A-18 was long legged in my original post. The fact is, the ranges of our aircraft on the carriers has continued to go down across the board and I don’t understand why NAVAIR is allowing this. It started with the F/A-18, continues with the V-22 as COD, and also with the F-35. Plus the tanker capability on the carriers is now a joke. I just don’t understand this thinking.

          • Rocco

            Fuel status specks is always known as combat range. As per argument not just internal capacity is mute point.

        • Rocco

          No not twice!! I was on the wasp so I know what it got! The America had to get it done before last deployment for testing & to remove & modify weapon’s because the 1st was temporary , for yard period not available !! & it’s a different ship!!

          • airider

            We’re both basically saying the same thing. It took a couple of rounds to get this right, because the exhaust temp is higher than what came before.

          • Rocco

            Well debatable !! Different here on the F-35b as because it’s exhaust points straight down on landings!! The harrier on the other hand has 2 exhaust nozzles & 2 fan nozzles . The only thing on a carrier that can withstand direct exhaust in AB are the JBDs because they are liquid cooled other wise the steal & nonskid would melt.

          • airider

            So you’re saying the tailpipe must be hot.

        • Spencer Whitson

          The F-35 does not have external fuel tanks at the moment to increase its ferry range, but a number of nations, including the US, are interested in designing some for it. However, ferry range is unimportant. Let’s instead take a look at combat radius, which is by far the more useful statistic.

          F/A-18 E/F : FAS gives 390 nmi for a hi-lo-lo-hi interdiction mission with 4x 1000 lb bombs, 2x AIM-9s, 2x 480 gallon drop tanks, and an unspecified targeting and navigation pod. Same source indicates a 410 nmi range for an escort mission with 2x AIM-9s and 2x AIM-120s
          F-14 : FAS gives 500 nmi on a hi-med-hi strike mission, 380 nmi for a hi-lo-lo-hi strike mission. Military Factory gives TF30-P-412 engined F-14s a combat radius of 665 nmi “with full missile load”.
          F-35 A: 625 nmi, F-35 B: 467 nmi, F-35 C: 630 nmi. Source does not specify the mission, although if I were to hazard a guess it would probably be a strike mission with the maximum internal load- for the A and C, that would be 2x 2000 lb bombs. For the B, 2x 1000 lb bombs. All also carry a pair of AIM-120s internally.

          And the F-35 numbers are all on internal fuel only. So yes, the F-35 does in fact have the longest combat radius of existing Navy fighters, even with internal fuel only.

          • Rocco

            Nice ! Any stats with the advanced SH with conformal fuel tanks? How much extra fuel would be aboard? Etc!!

          • Spencer Whitson

            The Advanced Super Hornet proposal isn’t really fleshed out, so I would say that no such numbers exist in the public domain, and even if they did I wouldn’t trust them, as they are not finalized. In my personal opinion, combat radius likely wouldn’t be at F-35A/C level.

          • Rocco

            Maybe ! I was just curious to know how much extra fuel it carries compared to the Regular SH. It’s garnered enough attention for it to be a considered even though late in the game.

          • USNVO

            The F-35A/C combat radius is with 2 x 2000lb class weapons and 2 x AIM-120, all internal in a high-high-high profile. The F-35B is with 2 x 1000lb ordnance and 2 AIM-120, again high-high-high. With 4 internal AIM-120s in an AA configuration, the combat radius exceeds 700nm.

        • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

          That wasn’t the answer though?

          What is the IR spectrum metric for the F-35?
          Say, compared to the Super Hornet.
          Everyone can see that a lot of IR suppression tech has gone into the Lightning….. so, if it is so hot, what are its IR metrics relative to the 4th Gens?

          And no one cares about ferry range…. a proper metric is combat radius….

          And how many F-14s are the US navy running these days?
          I’m keen to hear that answer!

          • Rocco

            The Tomcat was retired in 2007

    • Marauder 2048

      So many contradictions but this was my personal favorite!

      “Based on the ideas proposed in this article, it would seem putting these
      sensor capabilities on an aircraft with more range and persistence
      would be the better bet. That could mean a low observable UAV” …

      “The argument that Stealth is dead is a compelling one”

      • Duane

        These are the arguments that Putin’s army of paid trolls have been furiously trying to implant in the minds of armchair generals for years now.

        As Shakespeare wrote, “Thou dost protest too much.”

      • airider

        Only reason I mention the low observable UAV is because Navy leadership/Congress has talked about using the UAV as a tanker and possibly a multi-mission platform. If the UAV isn’t LO, so be it.

        I’ve been a bit wary of all the passive attempts to enable reduced detection (i.e. stealth). We spend a ton on it, and it basically becomes a fixed design we have to live with for decades. We need to focus on designs that allow flexibility to adapt as the enemy adapts. That’s more readily done with sensors and systems that can evolve with software changes and/or easily swappable hardware.

        • Rocco

          Agreed!!

        • Marauder 2048

          “basically becomes a fixed design”
          “We need to focus on designs that allow flexibility to adapt”
          “sensors and system that can evolve”

          The F-35 is on its third technology refresh cycle, had Band 2/5 EW capability *added* to SDD and is better provisioned for growth than any fighter ever.

          Passive measures simply amplify the effects of active measures and designers of all aircraft (stealth or not) are very reluctant to make OML changes because you have to recertiifcate large portions (if not the entire) flight regime.

          • airider

            The F-35 is on its third technology refresh cycle,…”

            This made me laugh…there’s nothing more ridiculous than having your technology go obsolete, that it requires refresh cycles before development is even done. F-35 isn’t the only program in this “challenge” though. Hardware obsolescence and the constant upgrade process of the corresponding software to it, has become the new “money maker” strategy for the defense industry.

            Also, I’ve seen the software development plan for this aircraft. The reason for all the iterations and blocks is because they couldn’t get it all done in one shot (as the services desired). So to avoid embarrassment, the program pushed the aircraft out with bare minimum software initially to keep the “program cancellers” at bay, and have slowly been fielding upgrades that provide incremental updates that will eventually meet the services originally planned requirements.

            The fact you try to twist this around is telling.

          • Rocco

            So I guess when you up grade your cell phone can you honestly say you like the older one better?? At least the F-35 has that capability of plug & play!. Flip phones don’t have obsolescence !!

          • airider

            So what recent tactical aircraft even going back to the 1950’s hasn’t been readily upgradeable? The Line Replaceable Unit (LRU) concept has been employed that far back. Initially LRU’s were to help with maintenance, but they also became a way to upgrade existing aircraft in a quicker fashion as well. We haven’t built flip-phone tactical aircraft in quite some time so F-35 is not unique here.

          • Marauder 2048

            Because the Navy LRU’ed it’s way to the AN/APG-79…

          • Rocco

            Everything was upgradable in the past! The F-4 set the bar for that reguard ! Also being the 1’st tri service multi mission tactical aircraft !! This is why I like the F-35’s . I’ve seen every jet in inventoy just about from the 50’s nothing but the J- series family of turbo jets make my hair stand especially the J-79’s. I’ve yet to see & here in person how an f-35 sounds . But I can tell it has balls.

          • Marauder 2048

            “Hardware obsolescence and the constant upgrade process of the corresponding software to it, has become the new “money maker” strategy for the defense industry”

            Which is exactly what you advocated with your previous:

            “We need to focus on designs that allow flexibility to adapt as the enemy adapts. That’s more readily done with sensors and systems that can evolve with software changes and/or easily swappable hardware.”

            So either it’s totally mercenary and laughable or it should be the focus going forward. I’m curious as to your definitive, non-contradictory position.

            The F-35 has demonstrated the it can be upgraded easily and the block upgrades have been the plan since day one.

          • airider

            Sorry if I’m not being clear. Just pointing out the comments you point to that you try to use as the basis for your position and giving you a different perspective from the position of an engineer and developer who’s trying not to get stuck with an infinite upgrade cycle from a supplier.

            The second part of the post was the history as I experienced it and had to deal with.

            My take on the F-35 is that LM over promised and under delivered. You make the case that this was the plan all along. I’m making the case that this wasn’t the plan, and when LM couldn’t make good on the original plan, they had to de-scope things quite a bit. This resulted in a very delayed fielding and with it an aircraft that at best had basic flying ability and very limited combat systems capability. This then resulted in a much longer and with it expensive development process than what was planned.

            This isn’t an either/or situation, the pieces are all connected.

            Defense contractors “bid it to win it” all the time and then try to make up the profit margins with change orders. This is my world every single day.

          • Marauder 2048

            If you are arguing for an open competition for Block 4 and beyond then I don’t think you’ll get any disagreement. It’s just unclear how your vision for future platforms materially differs from what the F-35 offers.

            But I hasten to add that your take is not needed since the F-35 has one of the best documented histories of any fighter ever.

            The Block Upgrades and the TR cadence were a reality before the F-35 had even completed the preliminary design review. What’s been in each Block has fluctuated.

          • Duane

            “Infinite upgrade cycle” is a feature, not a bug, of fifth plus gen warbirds.

            The F-35 was actually under-promised and over delivered, because it does things now that nobody even conceived of when the development contract was awarded to LM back in 2001. One of the designers of the F-35’s sensor fusion system stated in a media interview that it wasn’t until Apple came out with their original iPhone in 2007 with its user interface that the design team were even able to conceive of some of today’s key features of the current software build. Just as very few people in 2006 conceived that virtually everyone in the world would buy and need and use a “smart phone”, even little children … it was simply inconceivable at that time, just a decade ago.

          • Duane

            You can’t “get it all done in one shot”, and it would be ridiculous to try to do so. It’s been transitioning from developmental to operational over a period of years. The A and B models are now fully operational, with Block 3I software fully deployed, and Block 3F now finishing up the tweaks in response to full weaps cert testing completed last year and expected to be deployed within the next 12months. The C model is still developmental, expected to go operational in FY2019 by which point Block 3F will also be fully deployed.

            Block 4 will come in about three to four years, not just because of the time to develop, test, and certify software code, but largely because the weaps that will require Block 4 code are themselves not fully operational yet, including the LRASM, the NSM, the SDBII, the UK’s AIM-132, etc. etc.. And then will come Block 5, Block 6 etc. etc. as future weapons are developed and certified over the coming decades, not only for the F-35 but on other aircraft as well.

            It never stops. If software development stops, then we stop improving our technological edge over our adversaries.

    • displacedjim

      To suggest that the only advantage or even the definition of LO is that it cannot be detected at all, or even just that once an LO aircraft is detected and known to be operating in some general directional sense (some early warning site figures it is over in that direction) then the advantage of LO is nullified, is to fundamentally misunderstand LO.

      • Duane

        Misunderstood, or purposely misrepresented, being the more common intent of the dedicated F-35 critics.

      • airider

        Work in the business and understand the realities of how this all works.

    • Rocco

      Internally the F-35C has more fuel than any super hornet’s with external tank’s . Great points though.

      • airider

        F-35 internal fuel = 18,490 lbs

        F/A-18E internal fuel = 14,400 lbs
        w/ one external tank = 17,676 lbs
        w/ two external tanks = 20,952 lbs
        w/ three external tanks = 24,228 lbs

        So, F/A-18E with one external tank nearly matches F-35 internal. Once they move to two tanks, fuel load exceeds F-35.

        • Rocco

          There you go!! Either way as soon as any jet takes off a tanker is up & ready!! With 2 engines the hornet is gonna use more fuel on take off!!

          • airider

            That’s not really a valid statement. Two engines doesn’t necessarily mean it burns more fuel. If they’re smaller and produce less thrust at nearly the same efficiency they could actually burn less fuel. Those specific details aren’t openly available.

          • Rocco

            Yes it is if your comparing apples to apples!! I’m an X PC & fuel system specialist I think I know what I’m talking about !! Accept I go back a bit!!

          • airider

            F-135 and F404/F414 are not apples to apples.

          • Rocco

            Your right I never said that or implied that!

          • airider

            PC…does that mean Postal Clerk or something else?

          • Rocco

            No Punk Consumer 🔫

    • Rocco

      If you may of not noticed the F-35’s inner tail pipe, ( turkey feathers ) are ceramic coated!!

      • airider

        Great!!! So instead of the metal of the engine retaining the heat and reducing its service life, the ceramic just emits more of the heat into the hot exit gases, extending the life of the tail pipe, but not having any effect on the IR signature of the exhaust gasses coming out of the engine.

        What would improve IR is having a higher bypass ratio engine which would allow cooler air to mix with the exhaust and cool it down. The problem with this is that higher bypass ratios require bigger diameter engines, which doesn’t align well with small tactical fighter design.

        • Rocco

          You don’t know anything about engines do you!!

          • airider

            And what is the basis of all your expertise?

          • Rocco

            Ask all the F-4’s i kept flying!!

          • airider

            So you were a repair guy on the J-79? The last of the turbojets before low-bypass ratio turbofans became the standard for tactical aircraft. The number of compressor stages on that engine was pretty insane.

          • Rocco

            Yup 11

      • CharleyA

        They need to “ceramic coat” the horizontal stabs.

        • Rocco

          That would make them heavy!!

          • CharleyA

            Maybe that’s better than getting burned up and having to be replaced. It’s still a problem with the jet.

          • Rocco

            Yeah I can see that as they extend way past the exhaust nozzle & in its exhaust past. A cheaper fix would be vortex generators of some type to cool them down. The black birds had them!!

  • Watch_Your_Six

    I’e heard the Navy is still not quite sure how the F-35 fits into carrier strike operations.

    • Duane

      In part yes, in part no.

      The no part: Certainly the Navy understands and is sure of its need for a penetrating attack aircraft capable of sinking ships, destroying ground targets, and conducting air supremacy raids, taking advantage of stealth. There is no naval force in the world with carrier launched stealth attack aircraft. The advantage of that is extremely obvious.

      Additionally, the Navy wanted a longer legged attack aircraft, much longer than its current Super Hornets (390 nm combat radius) or even its retired Tomcats (500 nm combat radius), and got it with the F-35C (630 nm combat radius on current F-135 engines, projected to as much as 850 nm with the in-development GE adaptive cycle engines, expected to be available in 2020 or 2021). In a time when China and Russia are said to be practicing A2/AD against our carriers, longer legs is an obvious advantage over current air fleets.

      The yes part: The F-35C is not yet declared IOC, expected in FY2019. The numbers of F-35Cs delivered as of today is relatively small, a small minority of the 200 F-35s delivered to date. Once the Navy begins to field fully-operational squadrons of F-35Cs (the first was just established this month), then the Navy can begin to develop operational tactics … just as the USAF and USMC have already been doing the last two years.

      The USMC and the USAF leaders report that their flyers are experiencing a real “eye-opening” time as they begin to develop tactics, both in F-35 tactical groups, and also in mixed tactical groups (F-35As operating in concert with F-22s, F-15Es, F-16s, etc.). With the F-35C, it will be even more extensive, since one of its key roles is to serve as a stealthy forward command and control center for the entire fleet, including all of our surface combatants, to collect and share targeting info and even to directly command weapons launches and provide continuous targeting updates from all of our platforms. It will take at least several years to develop the combined “fleet knowledge” necessary to leverage the full capabilities of the Lightning II.

      • Watch_Your_Six

        Well, it is a positive that the f-35 is a system the Navy will have to grow in to. I’ve heard some say they’d be happy with the latest and greatest version of the F-18, but maybe they are not looking at the big picture.

        • Duane

          Yes, that’s part of it … it is easy to dismiss what you don’t understand, or have never experienced.

          A decade ago, I remember many conversations with people who couldn’t comprehend why anybody would ever need a “smart phone”. Then in 2007 Apple introduced its first iphone … and now virtually everybody, from grandmas to preschoolers to executives to battlefield commanders and troops now sport smart phones, and wonder how they ever got along without them.

          It wasn’t that long ago that few people even knew what a GPS was, yet today nearly everybody has at least one GPS on their person or in their car or bike or boat or on their FitBit.

          Once the fleet experiences what the F-35C can do that no other carrier-based aircraft has ever been able to do, they will wonder how they ever got along without it.

  • NavySubNuke

    Looking at this is the right answer. If you don’t look you will never know.
    If we can get nearly the same capability at a cost that is both lower per plane and at a cheaper per flight hour rate than that may be the right answer – a lot depends on what is missing from “nearly”. Especially when you consider what the next gen jammer will be capable of.
    There is nothing wrong with taking an honest look at this and making sure the F-35C is still the right answer while there is still a hot F-18 line to pick up the slack. I’m sure the Air Force would happily give up F-35s for extra F-22s right now if there was a way to do so that made sense.

    • Duane

      There is nothing wrong with considering alternatives, certainly. But, of course, that has been done all along. There was an open competition funded in part by DOD way back in the late 90s/early 00s, and Boeing’s entrant lost out to LM’s F-35.

      As for the notion of seriously considering ditching an investment of nearly 20 years and many billions of dollars, in order to go backwards (reverse) in warfighting capability, at precisely the same time that our near-peer opponents, primarily Russia and China, with additional client states like Iran and Syria and even Yemen arming up with the latest Russian mobile S-400 SAM radars and mobile missile launchers, and developing their own A2/AD defenses targeting our carriers, well, that’s just crazy to even think of doing that.

      This isn’t 1998 any longer, or 2003, when it was just the mighty US military and our NATO allies vs. a ragtag band of jihadis in pickup trucks in some hellhole of an empty desert. It’s 2017, when Russians and Chinese are engaged major military buildups and directly challenging the US Navy’s freedom of navigation and actually invading countries like the Ukraine and Syria and conducting genocide campaigns against Syrian civilians to boot.

      • NavySubNuke

        “This isn’t 1998 any longer, or 2003”
        All the more reason to make sure the F-35 still makes sense. I’d rather stop now and waste the billions of dollars we already have if that is the right answer than keep moving forward with the wrong program and waste tens of billions more.
        If the F35 had arrived on time and on budget we wouldn’t even be having this competition. Instead it is over a decade late and hundreds of billions have been spent trying to correct the program. Now, before we go into full rate production, we have one last chance to make sure we are buying what we need to deter conflict and to fight and win the nation’s wars when that deterrence fails.
        The Navy needs the best plane to accomplish that mission – not the fastest or the shiniest or the coolest looking — the only thing that matters is which plane will deliver the necessary capabilities and quantities that we need to fight and win. Everything else is meaningless vanity best left to the prima donna’s running the Air Force.

        • CharleyA

          The Navy needs to evaluate whether the F-35C is the right aircraft to accomplish their mission sets considering their limited resources and future needs. A case can be made to skip the F-35C and move on to F/A-XX and a developed RQ-25, while recapitalizing the F/A-18E/F fleet in the interim.

          • Duane

            Yes, for sure, skip what already exists and go for something that exists only on paper.

            The dear leaders in Moscow and Beijing would love nothing better than for the USA to abandon the one weapon that they fear above all, that exists today, and will soon be available to the US and our key allies in numbers sufficient to totally overwhelm the Russians and Chinese, in order to reach for a weapon that does not yet exist, giving them a 20 year timeframe in which to catch up and become actual peers, and not merely near-peers.

            What’s not to like about that – that is, if you are an enemy of the United States?

          • Marauder 2048

            Yes, F/A-XX and RQ-25 make a lot of sense.

            In the same way the A-12, NATF, A/X, A/FX, UCLASS, A-6F, F-14D made a lot of sense.

        • Duane

          Stop with it with your childish trivializations that characterize fifth gen warbird capabilities as a matter of shine or cool. Comment at something above a fifth grade level if you want to be taken seriously.

          • Rocco

            Dude you have know idea who your talking to here!!

          • NavySubNuke

            I really could care less if you take me seriously or not – you’ve made it clear that you want to only buy the best and fastest without regard to anything else. That is perfectly understandable but not the right answer.
            The right answer is to make sure we are doing what we need to do to make sure the Navy can fight and win the Nation’s wars —- even if it means the pilots don’t get to fly the plane they want to fly more than any other.

          • Rocco

            I agree to a point NSN our pilots need to keep their skills fine tuned by keeping aircraft in inventory that can do the job in the air with the pilot aboard not all by drone! Once that’s gone it’s very hard to turn back now a days!⚓️

      • Michael D. Woods

        Here’s my idea–Russia will never be a rival to the US. On land in Europe, yes, so tell the Europeans to mind their own defense. It’s been over 70 years now! If war comes, yes, we’ll discharge our obligations as we did in the twentieth century, but it’ll take a while to get there and they’ll have to fight the first battles themselves.

        You can’t blame the Russians, though. They’ve always had an (unjustified) inferiority complex with respect to Western Europe, even in the days of the Czars when French was their court language. And remember the Cuban missile crisis? That’s what the Russians are facing with Poland and the Baltic countries (NATO) right on their border.

        As for China, they’re coming on and except for Japan and South Korea, they’re just a bunch of little countries. We may still have to help them. But the Philippines have already thrown us out and the Okinawans seem to want to. Maybe we should scale back there too.

        • Rocco

          The Philips & okinawans didn’t mind the money & opertunities we gave them huh. Especially the Philips being able to serve in the navy & retire!!

        • Duane

          The US has not been thrown out of the Philippines. Indeed, we just inked a new agreement with them allowing us the use of multiple bases in their country. Duterte is a little like Trump, all mouth and pretending to be the bull in the china shop, making a great show of being different, but like Trump, he does not dictate to his nation.

          The purpose of having overwhelming military superiority, not just in weapons but in all aspects, is two fold:

          1) Deterrence … if the bad guys know they will get their butts whipped, they will behave better

          2) Winning wars. If 1) doesn’t work, then 2) applies.

          • Michael D. Woods

            Evidently you’re young. You don’t remember Subic Bay, Cubi Point and Clark AFB. But I flew in there enough times to remember them.

          • Rocco

            Kudos!!

          • Donald Carey

            Clark AFB – Didn’t a volcano trash it? Perhaps going back might not be the brightest idea.

          • Rocco

            No it didn’t the base is a cnty airport with transient military aircraft stops!

          • Donald Carey

            I remember seeing photos of it covered in a heavy layer of ash -that wouldn’t have been cheap to clean up. As the volcano is fairly active, it will happen again – jet engines don’t like volcanic ash and the U.S. doesn’t need to be faced with the cost of cleaning the place up from time to time – there are better places.

          • Rocco

            Interesting!

          • Duane

            Not young … spent part of a West Pac in Subic. Don’t know what that has to do with anything, though. The Americans were basically kicked out of the Philippines in the 1990s after a change in government … we’ve been working on renewing the relationship in the last decade, and even with Duterte’s crazy rants, the bulk of the government and the military and the people understand that America has been a friend and ally for more than a century.

      • Refguy

        Sunk costs are irrelevant; for non CPAs and non MBAs, good money after bad.

        • Rocco

          What are you talking about!!!???

          • Duane

            He is delusional. Sunk costs are always a consideration … they may or may not be determinative.

          • Rocco

            Obviously since he also didn’t respond!!

          • Refguy

            Sunk costs are only a consideration if you let emotion overrule analysis. If you look carefully, you’ll see that I did respond.

          • Rocco

            Ok so your response did not come until just after I responded to Duane not that your statement applies to anything here directly. So he’s correct in his reply to you!!

          • Refguy

            Isn’t this a three part decision tree?
            1 Is the upgraded Super Duper Hornet good enough?
            2 If the SDH isn’t good enough, is the F-35 enough better to do the job(s)?
            3 If not, how much time and money will it take to develop and prove something different and better?

            My answers
            1 Probably not
            2 I don’t know, but I hope so because
            3 Too long and too much money
            None of these answers should be influenced by a “We’ve already spent a lot of money on F-35, so we should keep spending more” attitude.

          • Rocco

            If you look at it like this, you like this girl right! You start to date her! Things are great especially in bed! Then comes along another girl who’s just waiting for the right opertunity to make herself available to you!! You follow me here!! It’s a catch 22 in limbo cituation with the ASH! Without having a fly off yet in my opinion the jet is a shoe in with not much to change transitional wise just yet!! The big thing is what is the Navy more comfortable with!! Can they have both or choose one!! The bottom line we need jets that are deployable right now. We can’t wait for the F-35C reach OPC!⚓️

          • Refguy

            Granted that the Navy needs more planes NOW, neither the F-35C nor the ASH is really ready (what’s the status of the new engine and how much integration has been done?) so keep the current SH in production until the ASH or F-35C is ready to go to war, but the Navy has to decide SOON which one they want and commit to it.
            Sent from my iPad

          • Rocco

            Agreed

          • USNVO

            Sunk cost are always, as you note, sunk. However, you do have to consider the opportunity cost of not going forward which is what most people are trying to say. They tend to say sunk, and sometimes they mean sunk cost, but much of what they really mean is opportunity cost.

          • Refguy

            Yes, if the program is a little bit behind schedule and over budget, but making good progress, continuing is likely to be cheaper and get you a decent product sooner than starting over (opportunity cost of not proceeding), but what one of my former bosses called “protecting our investment” was really code for “I don’t want to tell the next level of management, or Congress, or the press, that we’ve wasted a lot of time and money.” One of my posts seems to have disappeared, but I have said that I’m sceptical about the cost, schedule and capability of the Super Duper Hornet and we don’t have enough time or money to start over, do we better fix the F-35, and do it soon.

          • Refguy

            The part about ditching an “investment” of nearly 20 years and billions of dollars (sunk costs). Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses than to keep throwing money at an endless string of problems (edited to eliminate mixed metaphor).

  • tzayad

    Your first picture in the series incorrectly identifies the aircraft as an F/A-18F Super Hornet. It is not. It is an E/A-18G Growler Electronic warfare aircraft. I really wish you “professional” journalists would get the basics correct. Here is a novel idea, why not frigging ask before you screw it up!

    • Rocco

      Ok take it easy!! It’s still a super hornet!! With a sead mission! You don’t have to be rude about it!!

  • Where is the anti-China leroy?

    • MA

      I ain’t leroy but I hate China

    • CharleyA

      I think he’s masquerading as Duane.

  • Duane

    Sec. Mattis has to obey his boss and this analysis is part of doing so, even if Mattis knows the outcome in advance, as he does. He is a strong supporter of the F-35 program for all three branches, though this comparative analysis of the F-35C with a non-existent F/A-18 Super Duper Hornet is the only subject. The Air Force is locked into the F-35A and the Marines are certainly locked into their F-35Bs, both of which are already operational and the B model just having started its first foreign deployment to Japan where it theoretically could face near-peer opponents in the West Pac.

    Any possible 4.5 Gen upgraded Super Hornet would take a minimum of a decade to procure, design, develop, test, and deploy, and would almost certainly cost more than a F-35C because Boeing will not have the scale of volume that LM has with a 3,000+ aircraft order to the USA and our allies over which to spread their development and other fixed costs. Remember that the entire order of C models, both Navy and Marine orders combined, is only about 10% of the total F-35 fleet. By a decade from now, the Navy will already have purchased 100+ C models and be halfway towards its deployment of a sixth-gen aircraft that will supersede not only any possible Super Duper Hornet but the F-35C as well.

    But the probability that the Navy will have a “V-8 moment”, and slap its collective forehead, saying, “We coulda had a less capable combat system at a time when all our near peers are up-arming!” is less than zero.

    • Rocco

      Agreed!! & As also being greedy by Navy standards of having their cake & eat it too knowing they have to make up their minds at some point before it’s made for them.its tough choice to make.being late in the game is the advanced SH’s dilemma.

  • MA

    I’m along way from an expert but wouldn’t or isn’t it possible to develop more capable electronic countermeasures and jammers to defeat radars rather than constantly trying to make aircraft invisible to them? Jammers could be fitted onto any aircraft

    • Rocco

      The F-35C already has some of that capability .The F-18G is the dedicated jammer that replaced the Prowler.

    • CharleyA

      Yes. The outer mold line of a stealth aircraft cannot be altered without adversely affecting it stealth characteristics. An aircraft like the EA-18G can have (and is having) new EW/EA/ESM systems installed without concern about RCS.

      • Marauder 2048

        The OML of any fighter can’t be altered easily or cheaply. The OML of the Growler *should* have been altered because the Super Bug has just about the worst underwing aeroacoustic environment of just about any fighter ever.

        • CharleyA

          Yet it is the basis of the EA-18 weapons system, so there’s that fact. The “OML” of the SH was in effect altered by the ALQ-99 pods; but that’s not terribly different than hanging ord. With the F-35, hanging anything off of it destroys its stealth – its main advantage – likewise does becoming an emitter. But since there are no definite plans to modify the F-35 into a dedicated EA aircraft at this time, the point is moot (it was deemed too complex for the program to undertake several years ago.) However, the idea might be resurrected at some point in the future.

          • Marauder 2048

            “Yet it is the basis of the EA-18 weapons system, so there’s that fact. ”

            The Super Hornet was also the basis for the aerial refueling tanker that replaced the S-3. The net result of that fact has been a “strike fighter shortage” because the five wet configuration (predictably) burns through Super Bug hours.

            So we can’t give the Navy too much credit for well thought out or good ideas.

            The Navy has been compelled to hang things off of the Super Bug because that fighter ran into SWAP-C limitations practically as soon as it was built.

            Dedicated, monolithic EA is of marginal impact on modern IADS and is especially silly on a platform with limited survivability like the Growler.

            The only reason for retaining the Growler was AARGM but AARGM-ER is being designed for internal carriage on the F-35 A/C so there’s little reason to burden the draggy Growler with that heavier, draggier missile especially when it’s carrying the heavier, draggier NGJ.

          • CharleyA

            Yup, Growler’s still happening.

          • Marauder 2048

            The all battleship Navy was still happening before Billy Mitchell came along.

          • Refguy

            Somehow, SH seems like the right acronym

    • Arthur Vallejo

      I like your line of thought. I am a medical doctor not a physicist nor engineer so I’m no expert either. From my desk, steath alone and electronic countermeasures alone will be insufficient to prevent unacceptable aircraft losses in the very near future. ? 2018-2025. Both stealth and ever growing ECMs are going to be needed to ensure sucess. Throw in lasers, rail-guns and talk of broad-band stealth in gen. 6 fighters and I am really confused. No nation can afford an all-stealth air force, nor would that even be optimal. But what is the right mix of technologies? What is the right combination of trade-offs?

      • Rocco

        That would depend on what our most prevlant enemies are! We have them from one extreme to the other. Even with Isis being more primitive if feel they are the most dangerous as they infiltrate as common people then act when we let our guard down. They will never have any stealth aircraft so their most dangerous weapon is money! On the other hand any country that can develop nukes is who we need to fear.

    • Spencer Whitson

      Jammers work well and are installed in aircraft. However, there is something which should seem fairly obvious if you think about it. If you combine jamming with stealthy features, you are in the end much more difficult to detect than with just jamming alone. Furthermore, it is possible to home into a plane by following the energy it radiates when jamming. Therefor, it is best to have a different plane doing the jamming, if you want to make best use of the aircraft’s stealth features. The F-35 is built with this in mind, and has an exceedingly capable integral EW suite, supposedly. It has been said that the Next Generation Jammer pods will be able to be carried on any and all F-35s, not just on dedicated EW aircraft.

      • Bubblehead

        If this was true, the Navy would not be investing so much resources into the Growler. As the F35 currently stands it has little or no EW. It will also be several years minimum before it does. The software to allow EW is several years away. And while the Navy hopes to eventually use the F35 for EW, this is mostly through software & the AESA radar. They have done no testing or designing with the Next Gen Jammer. It is not as simple as just hanging the NGJ on a pylon.

        • Rocco

          Not enterly true dude! The navy invest a lot in the growler because it has to be ready war! Now not just the future. When the new kid on the ship comes it will get handled accordingly. All depends on how you look at it. Traditionally the navy has always handled aircraft merg. But because of political pressure to downsize like the S-3 foe example the F-18’s had to take up the slack for other duties including tanking!! Nothing new as the A-6 & 7 did the same thing as well as the whale A-3!⚓️

        • Red Baron

          I won’t argue one way or the other, but just because the Navy devotes so much resources to something means little. Exhibit 1: Littoral Combat (Ha Ha) Ship (Ha Ha).

        • Rocco

          Use a god damb hyphen between the designation of fighter !!! ( – )= ( F-35 )!!! I find this very annoying !!

        • Spencer Whitson

          Why wouldn’t the Navy continue investment into a standoff jammer? They’re still keeping their Super Hornet fleet. And, as you’ve said, full software for the F-35’s EW suite is not yet completed. However, that is not indicative of the intent for the finished product, wouldn’t you agree? After all, it will be in service for several decades, so we should considering where it will be rather than where its unfinished state is. And yes, the F-35 is intended to use the NGJ. Yes, they are planning on putting the software to use it in every single F-35. Yes, it would literally be as simple as hanging the NGJ on a pylon once said integration is completed.

  • NR Taylor

    The Article misses out that the F-35’s operating costs are projected to be 2x that of the F-18SH (right now, it is far higher than 2x).

    Operating costs is the bulk of the total cost over the aircrafts lifetime = Operating cost IS the most important cost! Purchase price isn’t as important.

    Let me put it like this: Which jet is more expensive?
    Jet #1 costs $100, and $100 for every hour of flight

    Jet #2 costs $1, and $10000000000000000000000 for every hour of flight.

    Martin Lockheed is trying to convince you that Jet #2 is the better deal!

    • Rocco

      Unsubstantiated!!

    • Ariesman85

      I know what you are thinking and I know what you are feeling. Lets just hope that the Navy puts their foot down if the F-35C proves to be an unreliable piece of equipment for their use out at sea. They don’t have to be forced to procure the F-35C when other options exist to fill the gap. Some options won’t even be considered due to clear bias, but our Navy should be adaptable and if the F-35C does not work out, how best to carry on the Navy’s mission and with what platforms? I have thrown out the proposal made by the late Rear Admiral Paul T. Gillcrist, and I still think it is worth exploring in terms of costs.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      How on earth do you know the operating costs of a plane that doesn’t exist?

  • Ariesman85

    If the Advanced Super Hornet price quote does not compete with the F-35C, we still have another avenue to explore, the cost of licensed production of a foreign designed fighter jet equipped just the same as the Advanced Super Hornet. Saving $1 million per unit of taxpayer dollars is well worth it if the product is superior to the equipment we are replacing it with.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      The only one in existence is the Rafale-M, which based on international Rafale orders would be far more expensive than any Lockheed/Boeing plane and the Rafale has very little common weapon integration with the US (France having their own families of AAMs & AGM/Bombs)…..

      So,….. that wouldn’t be a runner.

      • Ariesman85

        I had a heated debate with an engineer who was pushing the proposal for our Navy to adopt the very expensive Rafale-M. Yes, I am fully aware of it’s price which is owed to the carbon fiber composite air frame but one which can haul a maximum load of 9.5 tons with an impressive combat range on internal fuel capacity. I was arguing in favor of the big birds but he educated me on the impressive design of the Rafale-M, so I thank him for that. I eventually suggested that the USN adopt both the Rafale-M in small numbers while also adoping the proposal I was pushing from the late Rear Admiral Paul T. Gillcrist, which has already been met with much hostility on this site. I continue to argue it is worth looking into for cost and time frame to implement compared to that for the Advanced Super Hornet. You can have a mix of both the Super Hornet and Growler in one air frame which can carry significantly more fuel, has outstanding maneuverability, and will have improved combat range, cruise and maximum speed being equipped with our engines, and is an air frame our adversaries respect, and will fear, knowing we have adopted and are equipped with it, and have modified it to use our avionics and weaponry. If we can save even $1 million dollars per unit produced in comparison to the Advanced Super Hornet, and get these USN variants in production by at latest 2019 if we start today with the inquiries and research, it would very well be worth it!

        • Rocco

          Would you stop with this stupid fantasy of yours that what was considered 20 yrs ago!! It ain’t gonna happen!! Even a naval rafale!! Get over it! Naval aircraft are built in house & tested here for our use alone!! Even the F-35’s sold to other counties are tested at Edwards & Hill AFB’s with the nations pilots!😡

          • Ariesman85

            That is the thing, this proposal was never considered 20 years ago when everything was focused on the F-35! This proposal is still relevant because it does not use the avionics technology of 20 years ago as you seem to be thinking about. Furthermore, I can’t think of a better way to put fear into our adversaries by them knowing our Navy is operating the best air frame in their air forces, and with the addition of our current level of avionics technology, weapons, and engines. The proposal made by the late Rear Admiral Paul T. Gillcrist gives our Navy a 4.5++ generation ASF-14 Tomcat II in the form of a foreign designed air frame that is undeniably easier to maintain than a variable geometry swing wing air frame. Now, if you network this fighter jet with the F-35 and have the two flying together, the F-35 can fly unnoticed and get behind any potential air threats while the air threats focus on the radar target they do see. Where the F-35 will lack in air-to-air superiority at close range, this fighter jet will make up for in plenty, and with full spectrum electronic attack capability, basically a Super Hornet and a Growler rolled up into one.

            However, I digress, it is probably cheaper to refurbish our current fleets with new and improved air frames, upgraded avionics, and engines equipped with thrust vectoring technology. After all, our nation is still Trillions of dollars in debt and we can’t go hog wild on spending! I am just promoting the proposal made by Paul T. Gillcrist. What is wrong with that, in the event the F-35 fails to perform and we are open to the idea of a foreign designed fighter jet being used by our Navy.

          • Rocco

            Your proposal via a retired admiral is dead & unsubstantiated!! End of story!! If I were in John McCains position & this idea came across my desk I would file it in the trash!!! Sorry

          • Ariesman85

            Well it’s a good thing you are not John McCain nor any member of our federal legislative body. John McCain called the F-35 a “scandal and a tragedy”, but he won’t vote on cutting funding for the F-35 even if the air frames may pose reliability issues in the future. It’s the F-35 avionics that we want, not the air frames and we can transfer the F-35 avionics to upgraded 4.5+ generation legacy fighters, or to the proposal you keep putting down.

            As far as the proposal originally made by Paul T. Gillcrist being “unsubstantiated”, I told you before on another comment on another post in usni, you have to google Paul T. Gillcrist and Russian Fighters. The article was in Flight Journal, August 1999, titled:
            “The Ultimate Irony…Russian fighters for the USAF/USN?”
            by
            Robert W. Kress [ex-Grumman VP of advanced programs and chief engineer on the F-14] and Rear Adm. Paul T. Gillcrist

            I can’t post the links in these comments, the site won’t allow it but I have more than enough research information to support pursuing this proposal at least in terms of determining the initial acquisition costs with the long term service costs. So, sorry, I won’t let up.

  • Dirk Pitt

    “If you’re saving just $10 million an airplane it might not be worth switching horses midstream,” Clark said.

    Over how many airplanes?
    Since when did saving $10 million dollars an airplane become insignificant!

    • Rocco

      It is if we invest in aircraft that is required to fly & land off aircraft carriers that can’t go to sea!!

  • Frank

    In the 70’s the F16 won the competition over the F17. The Navy rejected the F16 because it only had a single engine. The F17 was redesigned to meet Navy requirements and was reborn the F18. Naval aircraft still fly over water, so why is the F35 and its single engine acceptable? Will its 5th generation electronics allow it to stay aloft after it has suffered an engine failure? It may prove to be a fantastic machine, but the whole premise that the F35 is the right tool for every job is inherently and obviously wrong. For example, the A-10 was purpose built for close ground support. It has been the red headed step child of the Air Force its entire life because it isn’t sexy. Not sexy, but an unmitigated success as a highly survivable close ground support killing machine. IMHO, reevaluating the planned uses of the F35 is necessary and appropriate.

    • Rocco

      YF-17!!! F-16,F-18!! Use a hyphen!! You make good points.before the F-4 Navy jets had one pilot & one engine like the F-8 .Now that technology can make up for the lose of a weapons officer & engine it keeps the cost down.the A-10 was never unattractive!!

      • Frank

        Evidently my tablet wants to regarded as an ‘athlete’.

        • Rocco

          What ever!! I use a tablet also. Whether you like it or not the F-35 is the right plane.

          • Red Baron

            Then why does it have less range and to carry much of anything, it has to hang it on the wing, negating any stealth?

          • Rocco

            Because it’s a prescision strike fighter!! Meaning it’s just not the munitions that are smart in its self, or by carrying extra pods! It’s all built into the jet so that it carries clean! Yes they all have the option for carrying extra pylons for other situations that don’t really need to be in stealth!! In stealth the jet can only be so big as it to having to large of a radar cross section. So some compromise was in its design! A bomb truck it’s not & this is where people have a problem that large amounts of bombs don’t hang off it!! A full loaded SH isn’t going very far without tankers waiting for them to & from a mission!!

          • USNVO

            How exactly is a combat radius of 630nm less range? Than what:
            F-14 – nope 500nm
            F-4 – nope 400nm
            A-7 – less than 500nm
            F-18E – less than 400nm
            F-8?, F11F? F9F? FJ-2? Nope, Nope, Nope, and Nope.
            OK, it isn’t a A-6 or a A-3 but then from context I assume you were talking about the F-18. Since when is 630nm less than 390nm? The F-35 carries almost as much fuel internally as a F-14 with drop tanks!
            The F-35C is probably the longest range carrier jet fighter ever, bar none. The F2H Banshee is about the only fighter that even comes close and it can’t carry a payload even somewhat comparable.

            If you want to knock on the F-35C, try not to make stuff up, it just ruins your case.

          • Rocco

            Copy that!!😉⚓️🇺🇸

          • Cocidius

            Which all sounds wonderful until you read the latest DOT&E report which documents how unsuitable the the F-35 is for CAS compared to US legacy fighters due to its thirst for fuel requiring many more trips to a tanker to stay on station during A2G ops. Here’s what they had to say:

            “the F-35 has high fuel burn rates and slow air refueling rates that extend air refueling times and decreases overall on-station time.” Unfortunately, the troops on the ground can’t call a time-out when their air support has to leave the battle to re-fuel or reload.

            The high fuel burn rate and high drag of the F-35 creates a plane that has “short legs” and inadequate on-station times. All variants and versions of the F-35 share this problem. Current short-legged fighters mitigate this deficiency by rotating flights of planes back to the tanker while another remains over the battlefield. But with the well-documented problems the services’ maintainers have keeping the F-35 flightworthy, it is doubtful there will be enough flyable planes to make such a rotation practical any time soon.

          • USNVO

            Well first, the F-35C is the aircraft in question.
            Second, the F-35C’s range is the issue. Please stay on topic and not go off on baseless rants. The F-35 outranges all previous naval fighters and light attack aircraft.
            Third, CAS is way down the list of possible missions for the aircraft. Absent any F-18E/F at all in the air wing, it probably won’t ever do CAS. It is like buddy tanking, the F-35C would be a great buddy tanker, but it will probably never be used that way.
            Fourth, I have read the 2016 DOT&E report (you know, the latest one with the latest status) and I can not find a word in it about excessive fuel consumption or high drag. Please provide a page number from the 2016 report or I will just assume you pulled it from an earlier report that is no longer valid.
            Fifth, your defense of how short legged planes do CAS would be funny if you weren’t trying to be serious. Again, if you could point to something in the DOT&E report, I will be happy to show explain how your lack of reading comprehension is leading you astray.
            Sixth, please limit conversations to the range of the F-35C and try not to make some stupid mistake like quoting ferry range or thinking that radius and range are somehow synonymous.
            Thanks.

          • Rocco

            His Avitar is a grippen!! That says it all!!

          • Michael D. Woods

            I didn’t notice that icon, but I believe the Swedes spell it “Grypen.”

          • Rocco

            Incorrect

    • Michael D. Woods

      Single engine? I dunno. Why were the F4F, F4U, F6F, F8F, F-9, FJ, F4D, A-4, and F-8 acceptable? Oh, and the F-14, though twin engined, had them so far apart that asymmetric thrust made it hard to handle at landing speed. Not to mention that the F-100 engine could compressor stall at low airspeed and high angles of attack. Congress cheaped out on the engine it was supposed to have.

      • Rocco

        Good points but the prop planes not apply in a fighter capacity as what his reference was!

      • Frank

        You’re right, some of the most legendary Naval aircraft had single engines. The Corsair is a personal favorite. In today’s dollars, the F4U cost approximately $682K. The F-35C costs $115.6M. That’s 169 times more expensive per unit than the F4U. For my money, I’d want the insurance a second engine brings to protect that investment. Best regards.

        • Rocco

          The F-35C is not 115.6M !!!

          • Frank

            Rocco, By the way, I posted a rather longer response to your first replay to my comments. It’s held up in a ‘pending’ state for some reason. If it ever does come through, just ignore it. I’m not trolling you. Best regards.

          • Rocco

            I never saw it?? If you’re saying I’m a troll that’s a joke!! Best regards!!

          • Frank

            I’m not inferring or saying that you’re a troll. I just wanted you to know that I’m not trying to deliberately provoke you. Cheers.

          • Rocco

            Ok not that I thought you were. Just making conversation .

          • Sullir

            The reason why one engine is acceptable for the F 35 is because the Navy said it was. They were probably not completely happy when they made that compromise when the initial airframe parameters were sent to the JSF competition, but nevertheless, they agreed to it.

          • Rocco

            I already know this thanks

          • Frank

            According to Lockheed Martin’s website the F-35C costs $115.7 million per unit. I’d include the link, but it seems Disqus automatically strips post that include links.

          • Rocco

            Kendal had that price dropped!!

      • Red Baron

        Really? Is the F4U relevant to this discussion? A WWII aircraft with a radial engine? It hasn’t been until more recent history that aircraft could be designed with two engines and still have suitable carrier characteristics. As expensive as planes and pilots are, should we really advocate a retreat to a single engine aircraft? The problem is that DoD was going to buy this crap no matter how bad it was and put pilots at risk for it.

        • Rocco

          Take,it easy dude!! He was just making reference even though he went a little too far back in naval history!! The mans a naval aviator so have some respect !!! So give it a brake!! If you knew anything about naval aviation we had duel engine night fighters in post WW2 naval inventory.these plans were expensive to the time even though not relevant now!! So what !!

        • Michael D. Woods

          Yeah, pilots like me (A-4).

          • Rocco

            Carry on sir!! F-4J & S PC VF-74!!⚓️😉🇺🇸

      • silencedogoodreturns

        WWII piston engines v 21st century jets? Please. Apples and oranges.

        • Michael D. Woods

          I took advanced training in A-4s, admittedly only a 20th century jet, and gave instruction in T-28s, a radial piston-engine airplane. Except for the extra flight equipment we had to wear in the jet, the flying was pretty much the same. Well, the T-28 was too stable; more maneuverability would have been good.

  • b2

    I welcome this review.
    The arguments basically break down to a defense of the F-35C on all the invesment made to date and its gen 5 stealth capabilility/possibility VS an existing line open, proven weapon system with possible low risk improvements the SuperHornet series. Either jet, or a combination buy as the outcome…

    After a decade of fits, starts, and outright obsfuscation I hope SECDEF Mattix gets it right

  • Ed L

    Well at least they are not going the other way by outfitting entire squadrons with AT-802U’s or Cessna AC-208 Combat Caravan Light Attack Aircraft Which looks like to be a way of expanding strike abilities. Fitted with proper ordance flying low and slow sneaking in and dumping there load on target.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      Which squadrons?

  • 1coolguy

    I see this as a very wise idea – use BOTH planes. The missions the F-18 are flying presently have not been impaired by not being gen 5 aircraft and likely will not need those capabilities for decades to come. NK? Iraq? Yemen? Syria? etc? Other than China and Russia, what countries pose a threat to the F-18 and when will they? 10 years out? 20 years out? And by then, the F-35 will be much less expensive, therefore that much more affordable.
    Fly BOTH aircraft – it makes a world of common sense.

    • Rocco

      Agreed! We seem to speculate what the crystal ball has in our future by exaggerating the big picture!😉⚓️

  • Michael D. Woods

    And what about the F-22. I understand it was expensive, but better in air combat than either one of them.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      Isn’t carrier capable and has meager range.

  • RobM1981

    “We’re going to use the F-35 more as an enabler and a strike lead and as a command and control platform than as a fighter platform on its own.”

    That’s a pretty harsh indictment of the F-35, wouldn’t you say? I mean, that’s hardly what it was designed for. The F-35 was supposed to be a cheaper, but just as effective, F-22. It was, much like the Virginia SSN’s when compared to the Seawolf’s, supposed to “leverage technical progress since the expensive one was made.”

    It might be brilliant as a C&C, for sure, but if that’s all we get for *that* much money – that is crazy.

    You get the impression that the Hornets are there to provide air cover as much as anything else…

    • Rocco

      I guess you have a crystal ball as to what you say as ( the We ), part!!! On what the military & all branches are going to use the F-35 for what capacity !!!

  • old guy

    If you are old enough to have been around in the 70s, you might remember that the F-18 WAS the “low cost” alternative to the F-16, I believe Either choice, I’m afraid is a 1 ohm shunt across the treasury.

    • Refguy

      I think you mean F-14, not F-16. F-18 was more a “not the same plane USAF picked.

      • Rocco

        No he ment the YF-17 which the navy picked & became the FA-18A/B because the AF picked the F-16 that won the competition !⚓️

        • old guy

          Thanks. The important part is that the F-18 was touted, HARD .as the LOW COST alternative.

  • Daniel Steinbrunner

    I think the Navy should go with the advanced Hornet in order to both save money and get more bang for the buck. If they wanted a few F-35C variants for command and control purposes that would be fine. The Marines should continue with the F-35B to replace the Harriers and Hornets on the amphibious assault ships. I think it might also be a good idea for the Marines to look into replacing their Cobras with either Apaches or whatever the next generation attack helicopter is going to be. An A-10 type aircraft with the takeoff and landing capacity of the F-35B would also be useful. The Air Force should determine which F-16 wings squadrons would become expeditionary in nature and equip them with the F-35B and equip the others with the advanced Super Hornet as well. They should also look into transferring the A-10s to the Army.

    • Rocco

      Agreed with your 1st half!! The marines can’t use a none rated Helo for sea duty! Nothing wrong with the sea cobra!! The hornets never flew from LHA/D’s!! The army doesn’t want fixed wing aircraft of attack purposes. The AF will never use a navy jet.

      • Daniel Steinbrunner

        I believe that the Brits are using the Apache at sea now. The Apache would allow the Marines to use the Longbow targeting system if they found it useful. I think they should replace their Hornets so that all of their combat aircraft could operate from the amphibious assault ships. The F-35B wouldn’t use the catapults or arresting gear on a carrier, but could operate off one if necessary. The A-10 is still useful but is becoming vulnerable to increasing proliferation of MPADs.

  • Red Baron

    Bottom Line: The F-35 has to carry external stores to have any kind of real armaments since its weapon bay is so tiny. Once you hang external stores on it, the stealth advantage we are paying so dearly for, goes away. So why not buy any upgraded F/A-18 that is already proven and will be much cheaper? The Navy’s recent record on new weapons systems is poor. Consider the LCS, where they choose two designs, neither of which is worth much. Now we have the F-35, with a smaller range, single engine (expensive coral reef, when it quits), and can’t haul as much. Yet, I am sure no one was fired over the LCS crap and they are still building them! Yes, I know, fewer built, but one more is too many. Why are the taxpayers forced to pay for one-hit wonders because that’s all it will take to make an LCS disappear!

  • Rocco

    What needs to be considered here is that between the Navy & Air Force they both promote each of their services by flying front line fighters airforce still flying the F-16 & the Navy finally switching to the super hornet to promote recruiting for each of its aircraft type! They have both been behind the times as both haven’t used current inventory to impress!! Except in individual solo demonstrations . I don’t see the Airforce switching to say either the F-22 or F-35’s as the expense and availability isn’t there! The navy finally switching because it has no choice to keep legacy hornets as they are not up to the task safely anymore !

    • b2

      Are you talking about the Blues and the Thunderbirds? Why should that have anything to do with this review of F-35 and the F-35C vs SuperHornet procurement by Mattis?
      However, the out of navy service A-4 Skyhawk provided an interesting show for over 10 years last century. What about the T-45 Osprey today? Not good/powerful enough? After having been within bone-shaking range of both F-35B and C recently, a 6 jet Lightening airshow is totally out of the question. Mass hearing loss would ensue for the public.
      It would sell more F-35’s for you though, eh? LOL

      • Rocco

        It has a lot to do with it!! Each team is supposed to fly frontline aircraft in current inventory!! The super hornet is still the Navy’s front line jet & the blue angles will be flying them this yr forward as the legacy hornets are done! Make sense?? . The navy use the F-4 the dropped the jet because of cost & the need for Good hr Phantoms for the Fleet!! The A-4 was still in service at the time & cheaper to fly!! It was used until the FA-18 came to the fleet. The AF did the same thing by switching to the T-38. Why the still fly the F-16 35 yrs now is beyond me.

        • b2

          re “Each team is supposed to fly frontline aircraft in current inventory”
          Where is that policy written? ….
          Since when have the Blues been about “showing the latest aircraft”t vice a celebration of the aviators/pilot warriors who fly them and demonstrate their precision and professionalism? The Osprey painted in Navy Blue would be perfectly adequate just as the A-4 was. Legacy Hornets being “done” may be true but they still make up I/2 the USMC & US navy F/A fleet today! Somewhere an FA-18C is flying on call CAS…. Going to the “E” was a good business decision for the Navy Blues as the SuperHornet/Growler line is still OPEN and producing as you well know (lol). Be real Rocco, a billion dollars worth of F-35C’s to deafen the public(trust me) doesn’t display anything other than stupidity. Re the Thunderbirds, the USAF have it made with the Viper. Its a great airshow aircraft and thousands are still in frontline use today. Going to an F-22 would be stupid as every last one of the USA’s “only Fighter aircraft” is needed in the real world…
          I do recommend that the USMC have their own green team (called Green Devil Dogs) of six F-35Bs for demonstration. The buy of 6 will be adequate for their needs entirely as they can limit their airshows to Cherry Point, Yuma, Beaufort and Miramar! That way they can keep delivering each other hubris pizza re this jet!

  • NR Taylor

    Article fails to explain that the real problem is the more than 2x operating cost of the F-35 when compared to the F-18SH.

    Operating costs are FAR more important than the actual aircraft purchase price!

  • silencedogoodreturns

    so why can’t they put this super duper comm node on another platform?

    And $10 million savings per plane isn’t worth the hassle? So saving billions is no big deal? Wow.

  • Ron8200

    So what is the price of a advanced F18? If the F35 is $117M what and how much cheaper does it need to be. If our availability is at 55% of current aircraft don’t we need to have more available.