Home » Aviation » Navy Releases Final MQ-25 Stingray RFP; General Atomics Bid Revealed


Navy Releases Final MQ-25 Stingray RFP; General Atomics Bid Revealed

Artist’s Concept of the General Atomics MQ-25 Stingray. GA Image used with permission

Naval Air Systems Command has quietly released the final request for proposals to industry for the unmanned MQ-25 Stingray aerial tanker, USNI News has learned.

Last week, the Navy issued the RFP to four industry competitors for the air segment of what will be the service’s Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle ahead of an anticipated contract award by September of next year, a NAVAIR spokeswoman told USNI News on Tuesday.

The competitors are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics.

The Navy wants to field the capability on its carriers to alleviate the strain on the existing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets that are burning through flight hours while serving as a refueling tanker for other aircraft attempting to land on the aircraft carrier. Up to 20 to 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are refueling missions.

While the Navy has been reluctant about the specific goals of the program, the service’s basic requirements will have the Stingray deliver about 15,000 pounds of fuel 500 nautical miles from the carrier.

“The MQ-25 will give us the ability to extend the air wing out probably 300 or 400 miles beyond where we typically go. We will be able to do that and sustain a nominal number of airplanes at that distance,” Air Boss Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker said in the September issue of Proceedings.
“That will extend the reach of the air wing, and when we combine that with additional weapons we are buying, we will get an impressive reach.”

The current effective strike radius of a Super Hornet is about 450 miles, and the MQ-25 could extend the range to more than 700 nautical miles.

Of the four companies vying for the business, General Atomics has released the first complete images of its planned bid for Stingray.

MQ-25 model. USNI News Photo

The aircraft is a wing-body-tail design that shares design characteristics with the General Atomics Avenger design, including a turbofan engine and V-shaped tailfins.

The image, provided to USNI News, show the GA Stingray concept fielding a standard D-704 buddy tank refueling system.

While company representatives didn’t reveal details of the bid, like aircraft dimensions or internal fuel capacity, they did point out some features unique to the GA bid. The aircraft will have an electro-optical ball like GA’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs; landing gear that pulls into the fuselage, which is reminiscent of the old S-3 Viking anti-submarine warfare aircraft; and a system for maneuvering around the flight deck using gestures from the flight crew, retired Rear Adm. Terry Kraft who now works for General Atomics told USNI News on Saturday.

In addition to the carrier suitability requirements set by the Navy, GA has included a margin for growth.

“You can see a future for weaponization, you could see a future for ISR capability. The Navy has already asked us to put hooks in there for a radar and I think it’s very logical that the first spiral would be some type of radar installation,” Kraft said.
“At the end of the day, the UAV is a truck.”

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    The quickest way to extend strike range is to get on with the F-35….. an some external fuel tanks wouldn’t hurt.

    • Marauder 2048

      That and VARS for the CMV-22B.

    • NavySubNuke

      I do wonder what the actual combat range of an F-35 will be —- when it is actually carrying a real missile/bomb load that is not when it is just carrying internal only. Will it really be so much further than an F-18’s range that it actually matters?
      Put another way: Will the range be long enough that the carrier can stay far enough away not be in too much risk from a peer/near peer adversary anti-ship missiles but still within the combat radius of an F-35?

      • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

        It carries a lot more fuel and has 1 less engine to burn that fuel…. so, yes. Even fully laden it will go a bit further.

        Now, it isn’t going to be vastly further, but it all helps

        And when a Super Hornet is going for a strike mission, isn’t it carrying something like 4 bombs? ….. the other hard points are carrying fuel tanks, targeting/navigation pods and a couple of air-2-air missiles on the wing tips.

        A strike package of Lightnings and unmanned tankers should have a pretty good reach.

        • leroy

          Tactics for when and where they refuel will also answer range issues. Takeoff, refuel near boat, make way to target, refuel during egress. Maybe somewhere extra in between on ingress/egress (depending on distance to target), therefore I hope they chose a stealthy wing config., and not this General Atomics proposal. It doesn’t look stealthy (though admittedly we don’t know specifics).

        • NavySubNuke

          If the F-35 is willing to give up most of it’s stealth than it certainly can carry as much — maybe even more than — a Super Hornet. But what is the point of buying an LO plane if you are just going to carry so much ordinance it isn’t LO anymore?

          • El Kabong

            “But what is the point of buying an LO plane if you are just going to carry so much ordinance it isn’t LO anymore?”

            An F-35 can be stealthy when it needs to be.

            Can an F/A-18E/F be stealthy?

          • NavySubNuke

            It can’t – but my question is at what point in a conflict, if any, with a near or near peer adversary are we going to be able to put a carrier in range to launch an F-35 and have that F-35 still need to be stealthy?
            If the answer is never than we should just save our money and buy more F-18s.

          • El Kabong

            Finally, you’re starting to get it.

            It CANNOT go up against modern IADS.

            Carriers?

            What about airfields?
            Ports?
            Land based A2/AD?

            Sure, buy obsolete aircraft that can’t defend or attack anything.

            Brilliant way to get defeated, fast.

          • NavySubNuke

            “Sure, buy obsolete aircraft that can’t defend or attack anything. Brilliant way to get defeated, fast.”
            Buying a bunch of very expensive but modern/cutting edge aircraft that have their carrier mission killed before it gets them into range to attack is also a brilliant way to get defeated fast.
            It isn’t like we have a bottomless pit of money to buy whatever we want in whatever quantity we want it. We need to make intelligent investments based on providing the capabilities our forces require. If the F-35C isn’t going to provide those necessary capabilities we should invest the money in something that can.

          • El Kabong

            LOL!

            That’s the best you can do?

            Try harder.

          • El Kabong

            “Buying a bunch of very expensive but modern/cutting edge aircraft that have their carrier mission killed before it gets them into range to attack is also a brilliant way to get defeated fast. “?

            Nice job defeating your own arguement.

            Would it be better or WORSE if you had outdated Hornets instead of F-35’s?

          • NavySubNuke

            For the carrier: If the carrier gets mission killed before it gets into range of either does it really matter which is sitting on the deck as it heads back to the states for repairs?
            For the Navy: it is worse if the mission killed carrier has F-35s since they cost more and that money could have been invested in something else that could have positively impacted the fight.

          • Duane

            Actually, Super Hornets cost much more than F-35s. The recent contract purchase approved by the US government for Canada totaled $5B for just 18 E and F Super Hornets, along with spares and weapons. That’s $278M for each SH with the extras.

            Assume they bought, say, 10 AIM 120Cs for each bird at $350K a pop – that’s $3.5M. Assume that the spare parts inventory is a generous 20% of the platform cost. Back both of those costs out of the contract. and you’re left with an aircraft platform cost of about $228M a bird. Heck, let’s subtract out another $28M per bird for even more spares and weaps … still $200M a pop.

            Current LRIP Lot 10 pricing in FY2017 for the C model is $121.8M. LRIP 11 is still under negotiation, but likely another 5-8% price cut expected – so down to around $113M. FRP in FY 2019 is estimated to be under $100M come FY2019,

            So the cost of the F-35C in a year and a half will be less than half of the cost of a current Super Hornet … and that’s not even the Super Duper Hornet that Boeing is trying to peddle to the Navy now, which will certainly be more expensive than the mere Super Hornet.

          • NavySubNuke

            I’m not going to have this argument — foreign military sales always include an indeterminate amount of “extras” that make it impossible to have any kind of apples to apples comparison. Never mind the fact that the F-18 production line is limping along at bare sustainment rates while the F-35 line is up and humming along.
            To really compare apples to apples you have to look at what the F-18 costs when it was still in full rate production and compare that to the F-35 cost at full rate production.
            We also need to see what the flight hour costs are. There is some great words by LockMart on how easy and cheap it will be to maintain the F-35s coating but I’ll believe it when I see it. The B-2 is obviously the biggest offender when it comes to cost per flight hour given how sensitive its coatings are but the F-22 didn’t really improve all that much.
            You might not believe me but I really do hope that LockMart is right and it is cheap and easy to maintain the F-35s coating – despite the maritime environment – but I want to see the data to prove that.

          • Duane

            Old cost numbers at full rate production are meaningless. There is no full rate production going on, not even close, and it will never happen again.

            The F-35 is the world’s highest production line of any since the F-16s were operating at full production many years ago.

            We already know now from the Air Force what the current operating costs are of the F-35A, which is now down to or less than the F-16 and lower than the Super Hornets and F-15s. And coming down more each year as ALIS has now been fully implemented and the maintainers are now trained. All twins cost much more per hour to operate and maintain than singles of similar size and performance.

            Economies of scale is not just a theory. It is reality.

          • El Kabong

            “For the carrier: If the carrier gets mission killed before it gets into range of either does it really matter which is sitting on the deck as it heads back to the states for repairs? “?

            LOL!

            What’s more likely to survive and defend the carrier?

            An outdated Hornet or a state of the art F-35?

          • NavySubNuke

            ** Yawn ** Asked and answered. Do you have anything intelligent to say? Failing that – at least try to provide more entertaining comments than this nonsense. A few more “FACT”s if you please….

          • El Kabong

            Zzz….

            Squirming and deflecting attempts.

            Boring.

          • NavySubNuke

            Nice projection there….

          • El Kabong

            Your mom thinks so…………….

          • NavySubNuke

            Awww sweetie – is your mom proud of you? I am glad to hear one person is….

          • El Kabong

            Your mom is embarrassed by you.

          • NavySubNuke

            LOL. There you go projecting again.

          • El Kabong

            There you are, trolling as usual.

            Try posting something relevant, boy.

          • NavySubNuke

            LOL. You really should stop making comments to yourself as replies to my posts.

          • El Kabong

            LOL. You really should stop making comments to yourself as replies to my posts.

          • NavySubNuke

            Fetch the stick boy – fetch the stick!

          • El Kabong

            Fetch the stick boy – fetch the stick!

          • NavySubNuke

            Ah – no wonder you went extinct!

          • El Kabong

            LMAO!

            Once more in coherent English, boy.

            How someone can become “extinct” and still be commenting, is hilarious, sonny.

          • NavySubNuke

            Come on now — haven’t you ever seen Jurassic Park????

          • El Kabong

            Yes, I have.
            Wasn’t too impressed with it.

            I’m more of a “The Final Countdown” kinda fan. 😉

          • Duane

            Then eliminate all carriers, by your logic. They are never “safe” from attack, no matter where they go. You assume we cannot defend the carriers, and that the only possible use of stealth aircraft is to somehow allow carriers to hide out. That’s ridiculous.

          • NavySubNuke

            Not what I am assuming at all. What I am saying is that I don’t think we can defend carriers at the door step (i.e. within air wing range) of a peer or near peer competitor in the opening phases of a conflict. Carriers are still plenty useful against regional competitors like Iran that can only project power 100 – 200 miles off their coast but against someone who can project 1000 miles+ it is a different story.
            But if their reach really is 1000 miles we can park the carrier 1100 miles out and strike anything in that range including any of their own forces they attempt to sortie while we wait for the shooters who can get into range and survive to attrite their long range fires and make it safe enough for the carrier to enter the area.

          • Duane

            Carriers can never be low observable, but aircraft can. The higher range of the F-35 over the Super Hornet is very nice to have, not so that the carriers stay safe, but so the airplanes can range further. There is no place any carrier can stay where it’s safe from attack by aircraft, ASCMs, or submarines. Carriers and their CSGs must simply defend themselves against such threats.

            Your logic is illogical.

          • NavySubNuke

            I understand you find my position illogical but that is because of your gross conceptional error on the magnitude of the threat the carrier and it’s battlegroup face based on their proximity to the enemy.
            In your version of reality the threat of China hitting our carriers is equal off the coast of San Diego, in the middle of the Pacific, and off the coast of China.
            While at a very basic level that is true – the carrier COULD IN THEORY be attacked at any of those points – there is a multiple order of magnitude difference in the amount of weapons that the Chinese could strike a carrier with depending on if the carrier is off the coast of San Diego, in the middle of the pacific, or off the coast of China and that multiple orders of magnitude difference is the crux of the argument. Since you refuse to accept that reality of course in your opinion the argument is illogical. But that doesn’t actually make the argument illogical.
            I’m not concerned about 10 or 12 missiles getting through — the defenses can stop those — what worries me is the carrier having to fight off multiple salvos of land based ASCMs, ASBMs, backed up by fighter, surface ship, and submarine launched ASCMs/ASBMs — all just while trying to get into range to launch their air craft.

          • Duane

            It matters not if he risk of attack is higher in West Pac than it is in San Diego … logically yes, that is true, but it doesn’t matter. It only takes one successful ASM salvo to take a CVN and its embarked air wing out of action for years to come. Our enemies know that. Our enemies also possess all the long range platforms (aircraft, surface ships, and submarines) and weapons to realize that threat. We cannot take any chances that they will kill our carriers virtually anywhere anytime. We have no choice but to fully defend CVNs anywhere at all times.

            We cannot afford your kind of thinking that there is somewhere a “safe space” for CVNs, that if we only keep them in their safe space then we’re safe. We’re not. And given that, then there is no reason not to operate our carriers in harms way, whenever we want.

            Just as we are doing today. You attempt to make a distinction between wartime and peacetime. When war breaks out, it is too late to seek sanctuary. We will almost certainly be attacked first, at a moment of our enemy’s choosing, just as they always do. When the shooting starts, that is the worst possible time to run away. Game over, war lost, no credible deterrent ever after.

          • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

            You were cribbing about range…. which the Rhino is terrible for.
            Now you are cribbing about stealth….. which the Rhino is terrible for.

            If something better isn’t to your taste, then sure, by all means…. stick with mediocrity.
            Super Hornets for ever! (and ever… and ever)

          • Duane

            It’s all about flexibility. The “bomb truck” isn’t day 1 of war, when Super Hornets, if they fly, they die… on day 1 (or perhaps month 1) it is all about destroying the enemy’s air defenses and offensive aircraft – fighters and bombers. Once full air superiority is gained, then low observable is no longer needed. You don’t need two airplanes to do the work of one. And the Super Hornet is totally incapable of performing the Day 1 job, while the F-35 can do both jobs.

            Given that the F-35 is cheaper to buy and fly today than SHs, it makes no sense to keep buying the SHs..

          • NavySubNuke

            But that argument only applies if the carrier can survive day 1 to launch the planes. If we can’t have the carrier out far enough to survive (or at least not get mission killed) it doesn’t matter if the planes on the deck can survive because they won’t be able to enter the fight from their shot up and burning carrier.

          • Duane

            Yes. the carrier must survive. That is a given. Nobody is arguing that except you who seems to think carriers are sitting ducks, or should be treated as if they are sitting ducks.

            No – CVNs are the most heavily defended real estate in the world, with their own satellite system of AEGIS escorts, ASW escorts (both surface and subsurface), their own embarked aircraft (80 per ship covering all aspects from ISR to attack to ASW to supply and logistics) and their own ship’s defensive weapons.

          • NavySubNuke

            “Nobody is arguing that except you who seems to think carriers are sitting ducks, or should be treated as if they are sitting ducks.”
            No Duane — that isn’t what I said at all —- that is just what your complete and utter inability to grasp what I am saying has led you to incorrect assume.
            “CVNs are the most heavily defended real estate in the world”
            This is an opinion not backed up by fact. I would actually say that the city of Moscow is the most heavily defended real estate in the world.
            “ASW escorts (both surface and subsurface)”
            This hasn’t been true for a number of years — the Navy hasn’t assigned submarines as part of carrier battlegroups for over a decade.
            “embarked aircraft (80 per ship covering all aspects from ISR to attack to ASW to supply and logistics)”
            Actually the air wing isn’t 80 anymore — we’ve been steadily reducing the size for years. We are down to 74 and dropping currently — Google “carrier air wing composition” and look at the 3rd result down from USNI.

            You can feel free to keep responding if you like but your inability to grasp what I am saying is just leading you to say all sorts of inaccurate things that ignore what it is I am trying to say and more posts on the subject aren’t likely to help you suddenly understand it.

          • El Kabong

            “But that argument only applies if the carrier can survive day 1 to launch the planes.”?

            And what exactly is defending the carrier?

            Yeesh.

        • El Kabong

          Well said.

          Don’t forget what all the anti-F-35 folks ignore.

          The Sub-Par Hornet’s cock-eyed wing pylons.

          Lots of drag, fatigue and extra RCS from those.

      • @USS_Fallujah

        When you talk about max range you’re talking day 1 combat scenarios, with (for instance) 8 SDBs & tanker support the CVW will have effective reach to almost 2,500km (~1,000km combat radius on internal, plus drop tanks ditched prior to entering contested airspace and tanking twice about 800km from the ship). You won’t win a war on what the F-35C carries internally, but that F-35 can also relay targeting info for JASM-ER, Tomahawks, etc.
        Once the enemy A2/AD network has been degraded over a period of days, weeks or even months the CSG will be able to approach the enemy coast and the full weight of the air wing can be brought into play.

        • NavySubNuke

          That is my point — if we have to wait that days/weeks/months for the carrier to be able to enter close enough to the combat zone to be in range for the airwing to be able to join the fight —- why am I paying more for the F-35? Especially since it not only costs more to buy it will almost certainly cost more to maintain when you consider the beating the coating will take?
          If we can’t get the carrier close enough to the fight until the network has been severely degraded by days/weeks/months of strikes then it doesn’t seem like there is any point in spending the money on something that is low observable since since something that isn’t LO will be just as survivable at that point.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            You misunderstand me. There is a world of difference between what a CSG can hit on day 1 vs day 30, etc. That was just as true in 1986 as it is now. In the mean time however much of the long range strike mission has been off boarded to the escorts with LACMs, a much better option than sending A-6s “downtown” 30 years ago. So the F-35C will provide both the depth of strike missing since the A-6’s retirement AND a robust ISR element that has become vastly more important with the advent of real stand off weapons. So the F-35C can penetrate enemy air space, hit key targets and most importantly provide timely targeting data to follow on SHs operating on the fringe of contested airspace (using ASCM or JASSM-ER for land targets) and Tomahawks fired from SSN/DDG/CGs.
            Later when the mission moves from hitting CiC, Comms, Radars, etc to impacting the fight ashore the F-35C can carry the same load size as the SH to bring a real “weight of metal” to win the war.

          • NavySubNuke

            Unless the publicly reported ranges of the F-35 have been vastly understated (possible but unlikely they would be THAT vastly wrong) I just don’t see how the F-35 is going to be able to do any of that because the carrier won’t be able to get close enough.
            The public range of the DF-21 is just over 900 miles. The public combat range of the F-35 is ~650 miles. So with MQ-25 we could be out to ~950 miles — great!
            But what do you think is cheaper and easier to develop — a first of its kind unmanned air to air refueling capability or an incremental upgrade to an existing missile system?
            If the DF-21 can go 900 miles today how long until it can go 1200 miles? If you can launch a land based DF-21 to 900 miles – what is the range of a ship or aircraft based version?
            If you are China how many DF-21s are you will to expend to take out a carrier — 300? 500? How many SM-3s and SM-6s can the battlegroup actually carry?
            I’m not saying I’ve wargammed it all out and have all the answers — because I certainly don’t. But I hope that the Navy is actually doing war games like this and making sure that there is a reason to spend the money on the F-35 and we aren’t just buying it because we want to.
            All I am saying is that if we can’t reasonably operate the carrier within the combat radius of an F-35 against a peer or near peer adversary then there really isn’t a clear cut case to buy it.

          • El Kabong

            All that talk about DF-21’s…. What’s the CEP of one with a conventional warhead?

          • NavySubNuke

            Hopefully we never find out for sure but I am willing to bet if they fire 100 at least a few are going to find the flight the deck.

          • El Kabong

            “Hopefully”?

            Might want to get some facts before panicking.

          • NavySubNuke

            Not really. Sure we can observe the tests or obtain the test data and specifications via espionage – etc., etc. – but until the shooting actually starts we don’t actually know how effective any system actually is since there are so many variables that effect it including how well trained the launch crew is, how effective the quality control has been, what data they have available at the time they are firing and how accurate that data is, etc. Heck even the weather can impact a reentry vehicle’s accuracy.
            Anyone who tells you today that they KNOW for sure what the CEP of a DF-21 variant in 2025 against an American carrier is is either a liar or a fool (or both).
            Take for instance a 20+ year old Syrian Fighter evading our latest and greatest AIM-9 variant — does that mean only that AIM-9 was bad (i.e. a steering fin jammed and the missile went off-course)? Does that mean there is a flaw in all AIM-9s (i.e. it is easily defeated by Soviet era flares)? Was it a crew issue/mistake (i.e. fired from an angle the missile couldn’t achieve a hit)?

          • El Kabong

            Yes, really.

            You remind me of the Cold War panic the west would be in when ever a new Soviet weapon showed up.

            MiG-25’s, T-72’s, MiG-29’s, BMP’s, etc…

            All turned out to be mediocre, at best.

            Who’s talking about ‘winders?

            Only you.

          • NavySubNuke

            No worries — I didn’t expect you to understand.

          • El Kabong

            You clearly don’t comprehend the facts.

            No surprise.

          • NavySubNuke

            LOL. Considering your inability to differentiate between a fact and an opinion that is hardly an insult. Nice try though.

          • El Kabong

            Considering you’re using “ignorance is bliss” as a lifestyle choice, whatever you spew is meaningless.

            Amusing to yank your chain, though.

          • NavySubNuke

            Projecting again? No worries, I know you are just trying to compensate for your own ignorance.

          • El Kabong

            Dance monkey, dance!

          • Duane

            Why are 100 missiles not survivable? Through a multi-layered defense system operating at all ranges? If you are right we better deep six all our CVNs today.

          • NavySubNuke

            A lot depends on what the shooters are actually loaded with and how many shooters are actually with the carrier at any given time. There are only so many VLS cells and balancing between SM-2/3/6, TLAM, LRASM (eventually), and whatever else we are one day able to carry in them is a big deal. Especially since we currently lack the capability to re-arm those VLS cells at sea. Every spot you give to a “sword” asset like TLAM/LRASM is one additional spot you aren’t giving to a “shield” asset like an SM 2/3/6. (Note: This is what makes the ASuW mode of the SM-6 so valuable since it makes a great “shield” asset and it at least has a limited “sword” capability).
            All that to say – yes, if they fired 100 right now I am willing to bet at least 2 or 3 would find the flight deck and that would mission kill the carrier for months.

          • Duane

            Typical CSG is one CG and one or two DDGs – between them, they have 200-300 VLS tubes, most of which (on AEGIS ships) are loaded for surface to air defense, with SM series and ESSM – their primary mission in life. Call it 200 anti-missile missiles. Plus four squadrons of attack aircraft (Super Hornets now, gradually being replaced by F-35s), a total of 48 strike fighters, each of which carries anywhere from 4 to 6 AIM 120s that are effective anti-ASCM missiles. That’s another 200+ shots at ASCMs.

            Plus the Ford class has two ESSM launchers, another 16 anti-missile missiles, plus 2 SeaRam launchers, another 42 anti-missile launcher.

            Plus all the warships in the CSG have active electronic countermeasures. The USS Mason had a lot of success splashing incoming Chinese C-802 ASCMs using their ECM last year.

            All in all, I count at least 450 anti-ASM missiles plus ECM in the CSG, operating from several platforms at varying ranges. I would say that it ought to be able to handle a theoretical 100-ASM salvo with pretty good reliability.

            You do realize that a 100-ASM salvo is something that would be very expensive to do … at an average of $1.5 to $2M a missile, that would be a $150-$200M salvo. Not impossible, but something that would take a lot of commitment and coordination to pull off successfully. And if it did not succeed at disabling the CVN, the likelihood of Russia or China making further attempts is pretty low.

          • NavySubNuke

            Sorry, I just can’t help but laugh that the idea of going to war with the United States is acceptable but the idea of firing $150M – $200M worth of cruise missiles at a multi-billion dollar aircraft carrier that is about to launch 40+ strike fighters to attack you might be too much of a commitment.

          • Duane

            I did not say that the Chinese cannot do that, but their ability to launch multiple barrages at those kinds of costs, and with the massively coordinated logistics necessary to do so, and then achieve virtually no effect, is what will limit the Chinese.

            If they only needed $150-$200M and were assured they could wipe out a CSG, of course they’d do it in a heart beat. But to achieve zilch for that expenditure, it’s an entirely different story.

            I get it – you don’t believe missile defense in layers is good enough to fend off a 100 ASCM barrage. I do believe it. We’d all better believe it or, again, we must stop wasting money on CSGs. If their only purpose in war is to run from the battle, they are far worse from useless, they are sucking up vast amounts of resources to no good use that could be put to better use.

            That is a debate worth having.

          • NavySubNuke

            Actually I don’t think it is capable of fighting off a 100 ASBM barrage at this point (the context of my conversation with the El whatever was specific to the DF-21). 100 ASCMs we can likely handle.
            And don’t be so quick to write off carriers just because we can’t slog through massive ASBM barrages. For one thing, just because we can’t use carriers in the opening phases of a conflict with a peer or near peer adversary doesn’t mean they are useless in a potential conflict with someone like Iran or North Korea.
            From what I have read of our plans for the the cold war – if it had turned hot and we were really fighting the Soviets to defend NATO we only planned to approach the combat zone with 3 or more carriers operating together in a super battle group. That is what I envision would be needed to take on China 5 – 10 years from now too. But that kind of super group takes time to assemble and train to operate together since we haven’t even operated carriers in pairs for over a decade that I am aware of (note: this is a personal belief based on my own recollection — I don’t remember seeing any real instances of us doing this since the early phases of the Iraq war though we may have for something like RIMPAC or other major naval exercise and I just didn’t see it).

          • Duane

            Apparently the US Navy and SecDef don’t see it your way.

            Note – our carriers today, as they have since the end of World War Two, operate forward in the Western Pac Rim, Sea of Japan, South China Sea, eastern Med, and the Persian Gulf. We forward base one CVN in Japan – just a very short hop from the Chinese and NK coasts, and other carriers routinely deploy. Don’t tell me it’s “peacetime” – we’re always one minute away from a surprise attack.

            If the Navy followed your theory – we’d never let our carriers within 2,000 miles of China or Russia. and then somehow we’d convince our allies that we’re giving them a shield, and our enemies that they haven’t already won the contest by default.

            Nope – our CSGs are fully capable of fighting off any conceivable Chinese or Russian ASM barrage, I gave you the numbers above, just anti-missile missiles alone, we’d have a greater than 4:1 advantage in fieldable missiles, not including ECM which we already know, from a battle last year, to be effective in eliminating existing Chinese ASMs in their terminal phase approaches to DDGs. We also have the anti-ballistic missiles in the SM series within every CSG to take out short, and intermediate ASBMs of the type that China has already deployed. And we also have long range missile defenses as well (land based mid-course intercept system) that can take out Chinese and Russian ICBMs.

          • NavySubNuke

            I understand that is your opinion – I just don’t share it.

            “not including ECM which we already know, from a battle last year, to be effective in eliminating existing Chinese ASMs in their terminal phase approaches to DDGs”
            This statement is not backed up by anything in the public record by the way. There has never been any indication that the missiles fired off the coast of Yemen came anywhere close to terminal homing on the DDGs that were fired at.

          • Duane

            The Houthi C-802s came close enough that the crew of the Mason witnessed a couple of them splashing after they used their ECM – which is what ECM is designed to do, confuse the missile’s seeker and result in off target arrival. The Mason was the target of the second attack (another ship was previously attacked and hit by the same missiles earlier that week, so we know that the C-802s were functional.

          • NavySubNuke

            Do you have a source on that? I’d love to read it.

            But I am more interested in finding out how a C-802 managed to evade the counter missiles fired at it and get within visual range of the MASON.

            Also, just because one missile was functional doesn’t mean they all are. Just like when one missile fails that doesn’t mean they are all failed. As an example: The UK (according to open press reporting) had a D-5 test flight go bad a few months ago — that doesn’t mean all D-5s are bad. Just like how in a subsequent test launch from a US boat (again according to open press reporting) the D-5 succeeded doesn’t mean every D5 will work.

          • Duane

            There is a post in Proceedings on exactly that story. There are other posts around the web .. just google “USS Mason missile attack”. Obviously our Navy leaders don’t want to let too much detailed information out into the public domain that our enemies can take advantage of.

            As to how the C-802s got in so close to the Mason, it’s not hard to figure at all. They are sea skimmers, with a step down flight profile that gets them to within 3-5 meters of the wavetops on final approach, and then they dive to the waterline at impact. Anti-ship cruise missiles have relatively small RCS when nose on to the radar sensor – which is exactly the profile seen on the final approach path. For instance the 1970s era Tomahawk has an RCS of just 0.5 square meters – as compared to 1 sm for a F/A-18 And flying literally at wave top, it is going to be extremely difficult to see an incoming ASCM through wave clutter from very far away.

            There’s quite a bit of developmental work ongoing on upgraded US Navy shipboard ECM and even physical countermeasures (such as chaff distributors, and clouds of carbon fibers designed to obscure the target from the missile seeker). I don’t know what ECM the Mason had or has, but probably not one of the latest and greatest like SEWIP, based on AESA radars technology that allows multiple naval shipboard ECMs to network together to defeat large salvos of incoming. More than likely the Mason has the old “Slick 32” ECM. LM just won a contract earlier this year to produce the SEWIP ECMs.

            Anti-missile missiles get most of the press, because they look badass and go “boom” … ECM is much less sexy sounding to the defense media establishment, and therefore doesn’t get noticed much. But ECM may be more valuable, and certainly less costly, than the things that go boom.

          • NavySubNuke

            Please let me know which story YOU read that interviewed MASON sailors who SAW the missile splash in the water. I’ve read plenty of other articles on the subject and none of them had anything remotely like that in them.

          • Ziv Bnd

            As the strike distance for DF-21D and any follow on missile systems increase, so does the complexity of striking the carrier, or any ship in the CSG. As the DF-21D is designed to strike further and further out, the cost of deploying them goes up and the time that the CSG has to defend against them goes up as well. Given the critical role of the SM-3 in knocking the DF-21D strikes down, it sounds like we will be going back to having picket destroyers far out in front of the CSG to detect and launch earlier than the CSG escorts to hit the DF-21D during the mid-flight portion of their attack.
            Considering the casualty rate among those picket destroyers in WWII, it may be a dangerous technique to use to get an early hit at the “carrier buster” missiles.
            But what it really comes down to is that the increasing complexity of striking at carrier strike group at ranges over 600nm means that if you can get the (mildly low observable) MQ25 CBARs deployed and the F-35C’s can attack from 900+nm miles out, the Chinese don’t have a lot of great options. Even using the F-18 w/buddy stores as a re-fueling system does much the same thing, albeit while telegraphing where the attack will come from.

          • Centaurus

            It will go BOOM !

          • @USS_Fallujah

            So much to unpack here, but first off I wouldn’t go too crazy about the DF-21D, they’ve never tested it over water or vs moving targets, plus they’d need to produce it in much larger numbers to overcome a CBG with perhaps over a hundred SM-3s (and SM-6 for terminal intercept), and that doesn’t even get into the very tenuous nature of the kill chain required to detect, track and strike at a battle group under EMCON from 1500km away.
            That said, putting the DF-21D aside, getting within ~1,000km of the Chinese coast is still a very dangerous business, so you’ll want to degrade the A2/AD network with long range strike, both from F-35Cs, F-18E/Fs with stand off weapons and LACMs from SSN/DDG/CGs. The issue the F-35C is intended to resolve is both long distance strike and providing penetrating ISR capability to the rest of the fleet.
            As for range, the listed combat radius (via wiki – so salt to taste) is 1200km on internal fuel, throw in two external tanks (which you’d obviously drop outside enemy air defenses) you probably get something like 1500km, figure you plan to tank on both ends at ~750km out and you get a total reach of ~3000km. That number is a very long stretch and a lot of support elements would be required, so the sortie rate for that kind of mission would be terrible, but that’s also your day 1 after the balloon goes up – worst case scenario. As the Tomohawks and JASM-ERs rain down (and the US SSNs tally some SSN/SSK kills to, hopefully, clear lines of approach) you increase the sortie rate and start delivering some substantial weight of metal.
            Also as an aside, last year I toured the F-35 test facilities at Pax River NAS and got to talk to one of the lead test pilots at length, this is purely anecdotal, but his comments strongly implied the “clean” fuel economy of the C version was substantially above expectations, specifically that the fuel usage increase between .6 and .9 mach was negligible, and that they were having issues with the flight schedule because the F-35s were running the tanks dry on the F-18 escorts. Again, anecdotal evidence, so salt to taste, but encouraging none the less.

          • NavySubNuke

            The scenario you described above is exactly the kind of war gameing I hope is going on right now as the navy reviews how many (if any) F-35C’s to buy. Doing those kinds of scenarios for today, for the best guess on what 10 years from today, and 20 years from today at the SCI level with the right SME’s is exactly the sort of information we should be basing our F-35 (and other programs like the future frigate) buying decisions on. And I hope that is what is happening. I just don’t have much faith in the Navy’s process given disasters like the LCS.
            As an aside – when you talked to that lead test pilot (presumably without handlers nearby) how did he feel about the internal only weapons load he would have and the single engine? My similarly anecdotal experience was at a party at a friend’s house where I met one of his other friends who is also an F-35 pilot and he – after a few beers – had some strong words on the subject that were not quite complimentary….

          • Duane

            The carriers have to go in harms way, and between their built in air defenses and deployed aircraft, and what the rest of the CSG provides with AEGIS anti-ASMs, they must simply defeat the enemies ASMs … period. If not the carrier will cease to exist in the opening hours of war. That cannot be allowed.

            The answer isn’t to cower down, stay away, and get small to hide from any possible enemy attack, which can literally come from anywhere and cover entire oceans.

          • NavySubNuke

            “The carriers have to go into harms way”
            That is an opinion not necessarily backed up by facts. How much risk we are willing to tolerate for our multi-billion dollar carriers that are nearly impossible to replace in any meaningful time window and the 5,000+ sailors they carry is an unknown question. Certainly there are environments of risk we will send them into but how much risk we are will to expose them to is not clear cut.
            Literally come from anywhere and cover entire oceans — in the opening hours of the war? Come on now Duane, I know you were a nuke buried in the engine room but surely you know better than that.
            The idea that we are just going to sail our carrier right into the enemy’s ASM range – especially their land based ASMs – in the opening hours of any war and fight toe to toe with their full A2AD network is preposterous. Even during the height of the cold war we never planned on doing that with our carriers.

          • Duane

            The ASM range is the entire Pacific Ocean, and the entire Atlantic Ocean. All it takes is one submarine (we know the Russians and Chinese have nuke boats capable of going anywhere in the ocean) and virtually all nuke boats can launch ASMs. As a Navy nuke in the 1970s, I can attest both that my boat went anywhere we wanted, and I mean anywhere … and my boat also did the first submarine launch of a Harpoon … and ASMs are much more capable and long range today than the old Harpoons were, and still remain.

            That’s not even talking aircraft launches of ASMs. What is to prevent a Russian Tupolev Tu-160 bomber (Supersonic, 7,600 nm unrefueled range) (launching its primary weapon, air launched cruise missiles, at a CVN? Or even just a flight of attack aircraft with aerial refueling that like ours also launches a barrage of Klub ASCMs that have ranges of up to 2,500 km?

            There is no spot on any ocean of earth that is out of range or out of reach of a determined capable near-peer military armed with bombers, subs, or attack aircraft, let alone surface ships, that cannot easily reach to San Diego or Mayport. There is no place on earth that a surface ship can hide out.

            The only answer is to defeat their missiles.

          • NavySubNuke

            Well the real answer is to defeat the platform before it even launches the missiles —- which is what makes it not really credible to say the entirety of the world’s oceans are in range constantly. Sure you are *technically* correct – barely – but it isn’t really credible.
            And there is an order of magnitude difference between defeating the few missiles they could maybe forward deploy far enough to hit us and the kind of missiles we would face if we were trying to roll back China’s A2AD for example. The CBG today handle what our adversaries could realistically forward deploy – a submarine or two with 20 – 30 ASMs for example – that isn’t the issue at all. The issue is this notion that we would be able to sail through multiple hours of land-based (multiple hundreds of missiles) bombardment to reach a range close enough to launch our F-35s and continue to operate there.

          • Duane

            Totally credible. You are splitting hairs in a totally meaningless way. When you are a CVN, you don’t care where the ASCM came from or what launched it, it must be defeated. That is in fact what our CVNs and their screen of CSG escorts provide, through a multi-layered system of both missile, aircraft, and submarine and surface warfare defensive systems. That system, however, will have to be continuously updated and upgraded to deal with emerging threats.

            The answer is never to hide out – because there is literally nowhere on earth a CVN can hide. They have to defeat the enemies weapons, period. There is no other way.

          • El Kabong

            You are splitting hairs in a totally meaningless way.

            When you are a CVN, you don’t care where the ASCM came from or what launched it…”?

            Yes, you most certainly DO care.
            And try to kill it BEFORE it’s launched.

            That was the whole point behind the F-14/AIM-54/AEGIS system.
            Kill Backfires/Bears before they launch AShM’s.

          • Duane

            Of course destruction of the platform is always desired … but like any other effective defense system, you can never rely on just one layer. No single tactic or layer is ever 100% effective.

            How do you destroy a Tupolev 160 flying 2,000 km from your position and launching its long range Klub ASCM? How do you destroy a Russian nuke attack boat 500 km from your position from firing its sub-launched ASCMs? It is impossible to sense, target and destroy a submarine from that kind of range, yet the ASCMs they carry can reach hundreds of km to find and hit a CVN. Or even a Russian missile destroyer, which can also launch long range ASCMs. How do you sense, target, and destroy ASBM mobile launchers hiding in underground bunkers on Chinese soil that can send their missiles thousands of miles. The current DF-25 is good up to 2,000 miles, and nothing prevents the Chinese from just adding more propellant and making it good up to 5,00 or 6,000 miles … all the way to San Diego Harbor.

            It is folly of the worst sort to believe that all of the platforms, in the air, on the ocean surface, under the ocean surface, and on land and even under the land can ever be destroyed, or even very many of them at all, let alone all.

            The only solution is missile defense. Anything else is folly.

          • El Kabong

            “How do you destroy a Tupolev 160 flying 2,000 km from your position and launching its long range Klub ASCM?”?

            On the ground at its base.

            TLAM’s, Storm Shadows…

            “How do you destroy a Russian nuke attack boat 500 km from your position from firing its sub-launched ASCMs?”?

            At their port, Los Angeles class attack sub, A-class hunter killer sub, Merlin ASw.2’s, MH-60 Seahawks…

            How many seaworthy ships do the Russians have?
            Bears? Blackjacks?
            A couple of dozen?

            “The current DF-25 is good up to 2,000 miles, and nothing prevents the Chinese from just adding more propellant and making it good up to 5,00 or 6,000 miles … all the way to San Diego Harbor.”?

            LOL!

            According to WHAT credible data?

            Again, SM-6’s, CEC, THAAD, hitting their TEL’s…

            The best solution for you Duane, is more education.

          • Duane

            The one needing education is you.

            How are Navy ships going to sense, target and destroy a Tu-160 based in the middle of Siberia, with a 7,000+ mile unrefueled range? With anything short of a submarine launched ICBM?

            The Russians and Chinese are both engaged in major naval buildups as well as making much progress in ASMs of all types. Everyone (but you) apparently knows that.

            As for ballistic missiles, the range is determined by fuel load and angle of trajectory. To take a 2,000 mi intermediate range missile like the DF-25 to intercontinental range is not a leap at all – just add another stage. The Chinese have been building ICBMs for decades. The Dong 5A,for example has a range of 13,000 km – all it needs is a seeker capable of sensing and targeting a moving ship. The Chinese have large numbers of ICBMs, as well as long range ASCMs. Most are stored underground in hardened silos.

          • El Kabong

            Says the LCS fan-boy….

            Wow, you just keep piling the BS higher.

            “How are Navy ships going to sense, target and destroy a Tu-160 based in the middle of Siberia, with a 7,000+ mile unrefueled range? With anything short of a submarine launched ICBM?”?

            Ever hear of satellites, Duaney?
            Cruise missiles?

            What bases, EXACTLY are you ranting about, Duaney?
            How FEW Blackjacks EXIST, Duaney?

            “The Russians and Chinese are both engaged in major naval buildups as well as making much progress in ASMs of all types. Everyone (but you) apparently knows that.”?

            LMAO!!!

            Clearly, YOU are the only one ignorant of the facts.
            List off ALL those supposed Russian ship building projects.

            “To take a 2,000 mi intermediate range missile like the DF-25 to intercontinental range is not a leap at all – just add another stage. “?

            LOL!

            Says the fan-boy with ZERO rocket science education.

            What’s the CEP of that missile, Duaney?

            “The Chinese have large numbers of ICBMs, as well as long range ASCMs. Most are stored underground in hardened silos.”?

            How many, EXACTLY?

            Cite some facts for once, Duaney-boy.

          • Duane

            Your ignorance is blinding only to you dudette. No matter how much you laugh your behind off.

            You seriously claim it is a massive technological feat for China to simply extend the range of their existing class of ASBMs from 2,000 miles to as much as 6,000 miles, when the Chinese have been fielding ICBMs with up to 8,000 miles range for decades? Go ahead and make that bet.

            Nobody in the world outside of the Chinese knows exactly how many ICBMs the Chinese have, but the current US DOD estimates are that their ICBM force numbers about 100 land based nuclear ICBMs ( both mobile and silo) plus four Type 094 ballistic missile submarines, with a fifth under construction last year, each of which carries 12 MIRV’d JL-2 ICBMs – so another 48 ICBMs plus another 12 soon to join their boomer force. The numbers are increasing rapidly, with the Chinese having added 40-50 more land based ICBMs just between the US DOD 2015 estimate and the most recent DOD 2016 estimate. If the Chinese continue building up their ICBM numbers at that rate, they’ll be able to equal the US ICBM force within the next 10-20 years.

            Not only are the Chinese adding many more ICBMs to their inventory, but they are significantly upgrading their missiles as well as their ballistic missile submarine force.

          • El Kabong

            Keep squirming Duaney…

          • Duane

            I’m laughing at you.

          • El Kabong

            Everyone is laughing at you, Duaney.

          • Duane

            Yup … all dozen or so internet trolls who are always ignored by the real world.

          • El Kabong

            What was that?

            Oh, never mind.

            It was nothing.

          • NavySubNuke

            Duane – is it easier for a battle group to stop 4 missiles launched from two fighters that our long range surveillance assets watched come across the entire ocean or is it easier for the battle group to spend 8+ hours trying to dodge/intercept/deceive hundreds of anti ship ballistic and cruise missiles fired from land based launchers well outside the range of the battle groups own weapons except for the TLAMs/son of TLAM?
            Also, if China is cable to fire 400 ASCM and ASBM how many SM-2/3/6 missiles will the battle group need to defeat those 400 missiles and how many DDG’s worth of VLS cells does that figure represent? Now, how many additional VLS cells do you need so that you actually have some TLAMs to fire back? Compare and contrast that with the number of SM-2/3/6’s required to take out the two fighters and the four missiles mentioned above.

          • El Kabong

            “The ASM range is the entire Pacific Ocean, and the entire Atlantic Ocean.”?

            Oh, wow Duaney….

            Ever hear of ASW assets?

          • Duane

            Well, our CVNs DO most certainly go in harms way. Are you not aware that we forward base a CVN right now in Yokosuka, easily within range of Chinese (and likely North Korean) ASCMs, let alone their much longer range ASBMs, even when the carrier is tied up to the pier … let alone every single time it ventures to sea. Not to mention being easily threatened by aircraft from Chinese and NK land airbases carrying air launched ASCMs, as well as from ground launched ASCMs from the mainland.

            Ditto in the Middle East – we routinely operate CVNs in and near the Persian Gulf, within easy range of Iranian land bases, and we know the Iranians have and use Chinese ASCMs, and have even provided them to their terrorist buddies in Yemen who fired a bunch of them at several US warships last year. The Russians could easily attack our CSGs from their missile destroyers in the eastern Med, or operating in international waters in the Persian Gulf.

            There is literally no place on earth that a CVN can hide from bad guys in airplanes, ships, submarines, or even from their land bases.

          • NavySubNuke

            Oh they certainly do go into harms way — in peace time. But do you really think that if we were heading into a war with Iran (who doesn’t qualify as a peer or near peer adversary so doesn’t figure into my example anyway) we would be transiting our carriers through the SoH and into the persian gulf? Sure we might transit one out but that is just to get away.
            We also drive single destroyers at China’s fake islands despite the (alleged) presence of anti-ship missiles on those islands — in peace time. You really think we would be driving a DDG within 3 miles of those islands in war time?
            You are also completely underestimating the value of emcon and the difficulty in actually finding ships that are doing their best to hide by the way. It is entirely possible to hide an entire battlegroup if you really try – just not right of the coast.

          • Duane

            I really don’t believe for one millisecond that in the event of a shooting war with China our first move would be to sail away from the battle. That would be the most catastrophic possible action we could take – it would be proclaiming to the entire world that we are a paper tiger, our navy is a hollow force, and that we deserve to lose the war. Our allies would immediately abandon us and kowtow to China, and that would be the end of the United States of America as a super power.

            If we were going to do that, then by all means, let’s get rid of our extremely expensive Navy, because it will be useless using your strategy of cut and run, even though there’s no place on earth to run to and be safe.

            Nor would that do any good – as I wrote, our enemies can target our CVNs and CSGs with a combination of ASCMs, ASBMs, and torpedoes from multiple platformsfrom anywhere in any ocean in the world, including sitting at the pier in San Diego Harbor, or Pearl Harbor, or Mayport, or wherever.

          • NavySubNuke

            So what you are saying is if a carrier battle group is in range we should just take it on the chin and allow a multi-billion dollar warship and its escorts, along with 6000+ sailors crewing those escorts to die rather than living to fight another day to just show how tough we are? We shouldn’t do anything to gain distance from the fight and instead should just go out in a blaze of glory?
            Yeah that makes sense…. Certainly living to fight another day and doing so in an intelligent manner that preserved our fleet and allowed us to engage in combat on a time/location of our choosing would be “the most catastrophic possible action”.

          • Duane

            No – what am saying is we have to defeat the ASMs, period. That’s what I’ve repeatedly said in this thread in opposition that our strategy should be to run away from the battle.

            There is no other choice available, except to eliminate the surface Navy altogether, including its carriers. And that ain’t a gonna happen. We’ll live or die by our ability to defeat ASMs in the 21st century naval war.

          • NavySubNuke

            The nuance you are missing — or just refusing to acknowledge since you are never willing to admit you are wrong — is that there is a multiple order of magnitude difference in the difficulty in defeating ASMs right off our shores vs. out in the middle of the pacific vs. right on their shores.
            Those are 3 very different problems to solve even if you refuse to acknowledge them as being different.
            After the attack on Pearl Harbor Bull Halsey took his carriers back into port rather than racing off to try to find the Japanese carriers responsible or rather than racing off to directly attack the Japanese homeland by himself. By your description in your previous post he did “the most catastrophic thing possible” by running from the fight rather than to it. Should open war break out between the US and China I would expect any carrier that found itself in the South China sea to similarly drive away from the combat zone and out into the open ocean where they can more effectively fight and defend themselves. Ditto for any carrier in the Indian Ocean — they aren’t just going to reenact the charge of the light brigade and dash through the straight of Malacca guns blazing.

          • Duane

            No matter where they come from, and they will come from many platforms, the ASMs have to be defeated. There is nothing we can do, even right off our shores, to prevent a Russian submarine hundreds of miles offshore from firing a barrage of ASCMs at a ship anywhere on earth. Ditto when dealing with aircraft, including the very long range Tu-160 and firing very long range Klubs. Ditto with Russian or Chinese ships that not only can operate anywhere on earth, but do, routinely operate right off our shores.

            You are the one who persists in refusing to acknowledge that their is no practical, not just theoritical limit to where an ASCM attack will come from. You can bet your life that the Russians and Chinese are preparing to do exactly that.

          • NavySubNuke

            Wrong Duane what I am doing is agreeing with you that we DO need to be able to handle that but pointing out that fighting off a ship/sub load or a few bomber loads of ASMs is a FUNDAMENTALLY different problem than fighting off a land based (essentially unlimited) magazine of them.
            “Ditto with Russian or Chinese ships that not only can operate anywhere on earth, but do, routinely operate right off our shores.”
            Also please provide evidence of Russian warships — not AGIs — “routinely operating” off our coasts.
            Also, please provide evidence of Chinese warships “routinely operating” off our coasts.
            Please also define exactly what in your opinion “routinely” means since it is a relative term that could mean many things.
            Also, you don’t forget to answer my other question while you are at it:
            If China is able to fire 400 ASCMs and ASBMs [note for clarification: at a battle group operating off of their coast] how many SM-2/3/6 missiles will the battle group need to defeat those 400 missiles and how many DDG’s worth of VLS cells does that figure represent? Now, how many additional VLS cells do you need so that you actually have some TLAMs to fire back? Compare and contrast that with the number of SM-2/3/6’s required to take out the two fighters and the four missiles mentioned above. (note: if it makes you feel better you could also contrast it with the number of ASMs of any time you expect a type 095 to be able to fire should one cross the ocean and attack).

          • Duane

            To answer your question, missile defense does not just entail firing SM series missiles from the CSG. Missile defense as practiced today is already a many layered system, and more layers are under development.

            We’re probably pretty confident that we could fend off any credible ASM attack today. But the challenge isn’t today so much as one or two decades out, when the Chinese and Russians will have developed more and more capable platforms, and more and more capable ASMs. There’s been a lot of press on the new Chinese intermediate range ASBMs, capable of reaching out to 2,000 miles. We don’t know if those missiles are actually going to be able to hit a moving target from that range with a hypersonic BM, but even if they can’t do that today, then we must expect that in the next decade they will be able to do that. Our existing missile defenses, both active as well as passive, are going to have to be continuously improved to fend off that threat.

            In the meantime, we are developing rail guns, for instance, that can target and destroy incoming ASBMs, with high rates of fire. There’s apparently been a lot of progress by the Navy in that area of development, and talk of deploying an actual system within the next couple of years. If that system checks out, then we can expect that future CVNs will come equipped with them (the Ford class is specifically designed to produce the electrical power to handle railguns). Maybe that is the “magic bullet”, or maybe not.

            If we cannot reliably defend against ASCMs and ASBMs, then we cannot afford to build and operate a Navy.

          • El Kabong

            “Missile defense as practiced today is already a many layered system, and more layers are under development.”?

            Which is what, exactly?

            What all you amateurs are failing to realize, is the FACT that ANY ballistic missile launch will be considered as being nuclear armed.

            Go research the USAF/USN study into using excess ICBM/SLBM’s for conventional strikes and why they shelved it.

          • Duane

            You should know the answer or you should not be posting comments here pretending to know somethi8ng. The existing layers include SM series missiles on CGs and DDGs integrated with AEGIS for long range missile defense. For medium ranges, ESSM,also on the DDGs. For short range, the DDGs have Phalanx, while the Ford class CVNs and eventually new DDGs will include SeaRam. Our fighter attack aircraft equipped with look down/shoot down AESA radars can also target ASCMs from above and shoot them down with AAMs (AIM 120s). Ship-deployed helicopters can also fire off Hellfires, which are capable anti air weapons at short range.
            Finally, all of our warships employee missile countermeasures, including ECM to misdirect or confuse incoming missile seekers.

            That’s a pretty hefty suite of protections now in existence and deployed.

            The SM series missiles are highly effective at intercepting hypersonic BMs, and SeaRam is highly effective at intercepting supersonic ASCMs.

          • El Kabong

            “You should know the answer or you should not be posting comments here pretending to know somethi8ng.”?

            LMAO!

            I know how to spell the word, “something”.

            Nice job proving my point, Duaney.

          • NavySubNuke

            “the FACT that ANY ballistic missile launch will be considered as being nuclear armed.”
            LOL. Oh dear what a silly notion. Nice try there skippy but just because an arms controller says something doesn’t mean it is tru.
            Also, because US politicians get their panties all in a bunch about something — or at least appear to get their panties all in a bunch about something to provide them a convenient excuse — doesn’t mean something is true.
            You should look up the difference between a “FACT” and an opinion sometime.

          • El Kabong

            Silly boy…

            Sure, pop off an ICBM with an HE warhead, and watch what the Russians do.

            Twit.

          • NavySubNuke

            According to you it is a FACT that they would react the same way to an ICBM with an HE warhead as they would to an SRBM or IRBM with an HE warhead right?

          • El Kabong

            Wow!

            You’re actually starting to clue into things…

            Go ahead, tell me what NORAD has to “magically” detect what warhead an incoming ICBM has?

            I need a laugh.

          • NavySubNuke

            Actually if you knew anything about the subject you would realize NORAD can in FACT tell the difference between an IRBM/SRBM/ICBM.
            Nice try though!

          • El Kabong

            LMAO!

            Reading comprehension is difficult for you.

            Try reading my question AGAIN, and answering it, boy.

            While you’re at it, cite your source to prove your claim, kid.

          • NavySubNuke

            ** Pats Duane on the head ** Thank you for continuing to repeat over and over the same points I have already agreed with you on while continuing to dodge the central point of my entire comment. Have a great day old man!

          • USNVO

            A couple of points to consider.
            1. A F-18 is a 6000hr airframe vs a F-35C which is a 8000hr airframe. So 3 F-35Cs have the same life as 4 F-18Es. Yes I know Boeing has said they can extend the life to 9000hrs for only a few million more on NEW BUILD aircraft which only means the existing ones will probably rival the 20 million or so that it costs for a legacy hornet for in service aircraft. It also doesn’t include the Block I aircraft that will be lucky to make it to 6000hrs.
            2. Cost per hour of the F-18E/F has obviously been way underestimated for the last few years or we wouldn’t have so many Super Hornets sitting waiting for depot work or parts. Basically the Navy has been saving money by deferring expenses and parking aircraft when they go down. That bill is now due and it will be shocking what that does to per flight hour costs.
            3. You analysis is severely flawed in that without low observable aircraft to help clear the air space and degrade the defenses, you never arrive at a point where they are not needed. Unless you use fairy dust, you can’t get there from here without something like a F-35C flying long range strikes with internal ordnance in the early days.
            4. The F-35 will have much lower costs (compared to previous stealth aircraft) to maintain the coatings since they are largely baked into the skin of the aircraft. So I am not sure just how much more expensive the F-35C will be compared to the F-18E/F.

          • NavySubNuke

            1,2, 4 I’m really not interested in debating cost per flight hour for LO vs. legacy aircraft since the real determining factor is going to be what it costs (or hopefully doesn’t cost) to maintain the LO coating in a maritime environment. I hope you are right and baked coating really is better but given what it costs to maintain the coatings on the F-22 and the B-2 (a well known hanger queen that requires some pretty exact environmental conditions from what I have been told) I am not optimistic. But time will tell on that one.

            3. “You analysis is severely flawed in that without low observable aircraft to help clear the air space and degrade the defenses, you never arrive at a point where they are not needed. Unless you use fairy dust, you can’t get there from here without something like a F-35C flying long range strikes with internal ordnance in the early days”
            Where is the F-35C going to be flying from is the question. I just don’t see us sending a carrier into their ASBM range — likely hundreds of miles into it — to launch our F-35C’s.
            Do you really expect a carrier to survive 8 – 10+ hours of multiple ASBM salvos just hoping the flight deck will escape unscathed and they can launch their strike? Do you honestly think that is a realistic way we would use our multi-billion dollar carriers?
            I sure don’t. I think the carriers are going to stay safely out of range while our long range fires roll back their capabilities — submarine launched missiles, land based aircraft operating from forward deployed airfields in neighboring countries, heavy bombers launching stand off weapons, things of that nature. Then once their capabilities have been pealed back enough that it is safe enough for the carrier to come into their basket then the air wing will join. But by then will we really need LO aircraft? The answer may be yes – I don’t know I’ve never really war gamed it out but before we spend a fist full of dollars on the F-35 I hope we make sure the answer is YES – WITHOUT A DOUBT!!

          • Duane

            USNVO – yup, agreed on all your points.

            The F-35 C model will almost certainly be cheaper than any “Super Duper Hornets” that Boeing has proposed but which does not yet actually exist. At FRP in 2019-2020, the C model will come in around the low $90s, perhaps high $80s (the A model at less than $80M per copy fly away with engine).

            Even the much cheaper to produce and operate F-16Vs (as compared to even the current SHs, let alone fourth gen pluses that Boeing is peddling) now being sold to Bahrain are selling $150 per copy fly away, not including sustainment or spares, per the latest contract just approved by the government. SHs are far more expensive to build and operate than Vipers, if for no other reason than two engines vs. one. Basically all of the current fourth gen plus new production fly away birds are being priced between $150-$200M in today’s contracts. Mainly because they are all being produced in small lots, maybe 10-20 birds per year .. whereas the F-35s are currently coming out the door at around 100 per year, and by 2020 will be coming out the door at more than 240 per year. Production volume means everything in pricing.

          • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

            Why are you cribbing about cost now?
            First it was range….. then it was observability!

            Do you know what has the highest cost?

            The answer for the class is: DEFEAT.
            Nothing… nothing costs more than losing.

            If you want to win, you use the asset that puts you in the best position to win.
            If you want to count pennies, there is a jar in the attic for you.

          • NavySubNuke

            As I said to your last comment – what I am cribbing about, and have been the whole time, is if the F-35 has enough extra range to make it worth the extra cost.
            If we can’t use it against a peer or near peer adversary because the carrier can’t get into range to actually launch them until their A2AD networks have been so rolled back that we don’t even need stealth any more than there is no point in buying them.

            “If you want to win, you use the asset that puts you in the best position to win.
            If you want to count pennies, there is a jar in the attic for you.”
            If money were no object and no decisions have to be made about how to allocate resources and balance navy requirements than this makes sense. But this statement wasn’t even true at the height of the cold war. There are always decisions that have to be made – especially in the current budget environment. Every extra dollar spent on TACAIR is a dollar not spent on ASuW, ASW, Strike, etc. The trick is finding the right balance that gives the Navy the greatest bang for the buck.
            If the F-35C doesn’t have the range it needs to be able to get off the carrier and into the fight at a time when stealth provides a meaningful advantage than we should save money on TACAIR by buying F-18s and use the money we save to buy other things that can influence the fight while it is still in doubt.
            Which brings us back to my original question — does the F-35C have enough legs that it can be launched, carry out it’s mission, and return from where a carrier would need to operate against a peer or near peer competitor? If it does — great! Let’s buy them. If it doesn’t —- don’t waste the money, buy F-18s instead, and make sure we get the range right on the 6th Gen fighter.

        • Blain Shinno

          Even with tanking from a notional MQ-25, the amount of firepower a CVW can provide pales in comparison to long range bombers. It made some sense for the Navy to give up its long range strike capability. Limits on the size of the MQ-25 and the numbers carried will put a cap on how much it can realistically off load.

          It might be technically challenging and a little costly, but I’d like to see the Navy develop the MQ-25 into an unmanned version of the A-6. You could grow the number of aircraft in a CVW to 10 or so with the flexibility to use the aircraft as a strike platform or tanker.

          • @USS_Fallujah

            What long range bombers are you talking about? B-52 or B-1B, because both of those would couldn’t get within 500km of the Chinese coast without escorts. Much of the USN’s long range strike capability what used to reside in the A-6 is now off boarded to the LACMs of the SSN/DDG/CGs, making that capability much more robust and survivable (imagine flying an A-6 type aircraft over Hainan Island in a 2018 combat scenario!) the issue is providing penetrating ISR capability (and timely strike, but in that scenario you’re targeting things like communications nodes, radars, etc so a F-35C carrying 8-10 SDB has very real value) to relay target info to the F-18E/Fs carrying JASSM-ERs (range around ~1,000km) and Sub/Ship launched Tomahawks (range around 1,700km).

      • Duane

        The F-35C has a 630 nm effective combat radius (2 way travel with 30 min. sortie loiter time) at full combat load (presumably internal only) with today’s F135 engine. The new variable bypass engines under development by both GE and PW are expected to boost that range by 30%.

        The thing about anti-ship missiles is they simply have to be defeated. There is literally no limit to the range of an anti ship missile that would leave any reasonable area of the ocean that is “safe”. Not only can the ASMs have long range (such as the latest Chinese DF-21 and DF-25 ASBMs), but the missiles can be carried by any ship or aircraft, even unmanned drones. For instance, LRASM is advertised as 350 nm range with its standard 1,000 pound warhead (another developmental variation carries a smaller 300 pound warhead with 1,000 nm range), and it can be launched by any of our attack aircraft (such as F/A 18s, B-1Bs, and F-35s) which themselves have refueled or unrefueled ranges sufficient to cover the entire Pacific Ocean. Plus it will also be deployed on our warships, and can also be fired from land based batteries.

        Literally, all of our warships are therefore within “denied waters” tied up at the pier in San Diego or Mayport. Ditto for our enemies.

        The reality our Navy faces is, we have to be able to defeat the enemy’s ASMs with superior sensors, anti-ASM missiles, effective air to air combat systems, and electronic countermeasures. That’s the challenge.

        • leroy

          Exactly! And F-35C w/Kongsberg’s JSM will certainly make waters more dangerous for enemy ships to operate in. After all, F-35 is multi-mission, and one of those missions (in addition to being a shooter) is ISR for clandestine targeting. Of both incoming ASMs and for ASuW.

          If the CVN is to remain viable, it needs stealth. Growler operating with F/A-18 alone won’t cut it. Will have trouble kicking in the front door on the first nights of an attack. And as you point out F/A-18 loaded down with bombs has very poor range.

          We can handle the issue of refuelling, we just need to make any UAV refueller as undetectable as possible. MQ-25 wing-shaped UAV would be my choice. But I’ll wait and see what this GA proposal has to offer.

        • Blain Shinno

          Agreed. But pushing the CVBG out makes it more difficult for an enemy to find and target, and then attack.

          • Duane

            With satellites in the sky 24/7/365, nothing is hard to find. Especially something as large as a CVN and its strike group … a floating city with suburbs, at a time when eyes in the sky can distinguish down to the centimeter level. All it takes is a sat link with a nearby aircraft or ship, which only has to approach within a few hundred miles or perhaps even much farther (one version of the Russian Klub ASCM has a range of 2,500 km), send the missile on its way in the general direction of the target, feed it some mid-course target updates, then the ASCM seeker takes it from there. That’s exactly what our ASCMs do today (the more advanced ones like the NSM and LRASM) – we have to assume our near-peer enemies can do the same, or very soon will do the same.

          • El Kabong

            Ever hear of CEC?

            AEGIS?
            SM-6’s?
            RIM-116’s?
            Phalanx?
            AIM-120’s?
            AIM-9X’s?

    • leroy

      Israel is working on externals – both conformal and drop. They are trying to make them stealthy so as not to destroy low RCS. Obviously needed if they decide to attack Iran.

    • Blain Shinno

      USN,
      Stop buying Super Hornets already. Are you concerned with A2/AD or not?

  • DaSaint

    I presume the wings fold.

    • NavySubNuke

      Depends on if they are bluffing or not — they’re up next to bid.
      Sorry — couldn’t resist the poker joke.
      In a more serious answer – I guess it depends on what spec the Navy gave them for the amount of deck space they can take up and if they need non-folding wings to deliver some KPP or another.

  • Duane

    It would be helpful to see a synopsis of the requirements for the MQ-25.

    For instance, the GA offering does not appear to be a low RCS airframe. The previous prototypes of the MQ-25 before the current iteration were advertised as stealth aircraft, and resembled the “flying wing” used by the B-2 and B-21. Is that requirement now deleted?

    I remember last year as the Navy began development of its next iteration of MQ-25 procurement, that some of the Navy folks quoted in the media wanted a tanker that could service the F-35C and therefore remain stealthy, while this press release does not even mention the F-35. Perhaps a stealthy carrier tanker will be put off for at least a few more years?

    Even if the MQ-25 will only service existing non-stealthy Hornets and Super Hornets, there is still value in being stealthy and not easily targeted and downed by enemies. Especially since it appears that these tankers won’t have much or any self-defense weapons on board, as do the Super Hornets that are now tanking their fellow SH.. If you’re a SH driver and your fuel truck just got shot down, and now you have to ditch, that would be a pretty bad day.

    • leroy

      Just read this after my post. I agree.

    • @USS_Fallujah

      Comments from other bidders implied they will be keeping a low RCS airframe (but not “stealth”) in their MQ-25a proposal. I wouldn’t assume the other 3 will follow GA, who appear to be leveraging their UAV experience to corner the Lowest Cost / Lowest Capability bid quadrant. I expect Northrup Grumman, LMCO & Boeing to shoot for the opposite end, with something that looks like a larger X-47B, RQ-170 Sentinel or Phantom Ray, respectively. God only knows what the selection process will really look like, will NavAir want a UAV “starter kit” to integrate w/ CVW, then evolve into a carrier borne version of the MQ-4C Triton for ISR and then 15 years from now look for a whole new program for Strike? That would be my bet, but congress will be pushing them very hard to pick a MQ-25A bidder that can easily upgrade through all 3 roles as the systems mature.

      • Duane

        Thanks, USS Fallujah .. Do you have a link to the actual RFP and comments from the other bidders?

      • Ziv Bnd

        I think that having a low observable UCAV/CBARS would be a huge advantage, and I think that USS Fallujah is right that Northrup and LockMart will probably have a low observable aspect to their bids. I hope Boeing will as well. If the CBARS is going to be refueling strike aircraft 400 to 500 miles closer to the enemy than the carrier, they will be a tell tail sign of our activity if they aren’t low observable. Follow the radar return of GA refueling system and you find the otherwise stealthy strike package that much more easily.

  • Brian VanVeghel

    Shouldn’t of gotten rid of the S-3 Viking then this would not of been such an issue. Talk about a self inflicted wound!

    • @USS_Fallujah

      Indeed, lack of foresight in trying to save money is coming back to haunt the USN now. Early retirement of the S-3, 688 SSNs, OHP Frigates, not to mention the complete CF that was SC-21, the opportunity loss on CG(X), DDG-1000 & LCS could easily mean another 30-40 ships in commission now.

    • USNVO

      The S-3 was not really the answer. Unless you totally stripped it of everything that made it an S-3 to begin with and turned it into a dedicated KS-3, you wouldn’t be anywhere near 15klbs of give at 500nm. A regular S-3 with two external tanks carried just over 17klbs of fuel total, a KS-3 brings that up to roughly 25klbs total but without sensors, weapons, or two guys in back. So it was fine as a recovery tanker but that was about all it was suitable for and a separate type of aircraft to just be a recovery tanker makes zero sense. An S-3 was a fine SSSC/ASW asset, but it isn’t large enough to be an effective strike tanker.

      • @USS_Fallujah

        I’d say a KS-3 WAS a great answer, in 2003, but not now. The USN has been using up valuable service life hours using F-18s basically as recovery tankers.

      • El Kabong

        Yet they did tanker duty…

        • Brian VanVeghel

          Yes they did do tanker duty and they the navy would not be using up the life of the F/A-18 while looking for a replacement tanker!

          • El Kabong

            Agreed.

            I always said it was a dumb idea to use up hours and fatigue life of combat aircraft to be flying gas stations.

      • b2

        Let me make this simple- Basic S-3 totally stripped out to be pilotless could get down to around a 24-25K basic jet weight. Carrier launch max weight is 50.5K. Subtract that… Voila yes, the S-3 could carry around 24-25K of fuel that could meet that 500nm hi-hi-hi profile. Shoemaker doesn’t believe it though and here we are shopping for new plastic vehicles and another procurement boondoggle they will be retired before though…
        ATTENTION- Look closely at the LM COD proposal that was buried 3 years ago our same Navy in favor of V-22, sole source… The data and facts from above are embedded in the logic.

  • Blain Shinno

    A couple of observations.

    1. The GA proposal doesn’t pass the eyeball test. Maybe I am wrong but I don’t really see how it is going to offload 15K lbs of fuel at 400 nm. One station seems to be for the refueling pod. How many more will be available for external fuel tanks?

    2. I am curious to see the other proposal. There are indications that Boeing and LM are pursuing wing body tail designs. I hope not.

    3. NG is supposedly using the X-47B as a test bed.

    4. I haven’t seen anything regarding the trade off between the wing body tail planform and the flying wing with regard to fuel capacity. Flying wings supposedly can carry more fuel. But what about the cranked kite planform that NG used for its X-47B? A wing body tail design would also have the ability to carry external fuel tanks. Would that give it an advantage or the cranked kite? Or would the cranked kite be able to carry a couple of external tanks.

    It will be interesting to see how this program plays out as it is the first unmanned tanker to be fielded.

  • b2

    Ugggh…I give up…Can anybody see this contraption operating in 3 years aboard a carrier? Be serious. I cannot and I work in this business. I’ll lay you 25-1 odds… This is just the type of proposal I expected from such a spongy RFP (business as usual since the 1990’s).
    Bottom line- my Navy, if you want an S-3 like vehicle w/range, economy, persistence, inherent over designed capability and that “all important” but misunderstood, CARRIER SUITABILITY then use the S-3 themselves from AMARG as your vehicle. Are you leaders of “our Navy” really that stupid to do otherwise? The answer seems to be yes as we head down Boondoggle Road again……

  • Ed L

    I though all F/A-18’s were going to get conformal fuel tanks as they went through the block III configuration

  • Rob C.

    Wow, they totally changed the Stingray from the flying wing. I guess there not be setup as backward refitting it for other assignments like Strike or Recon missions.
    That thing just flying target now.

  • thaidude

    Does anyone remember the V-1…updated.

  • M&S

    1. Retire the F/A-18Cs and invest in a necked down airwing tail and the whale-steal tanking problem goes away.

    2. Give NGJ a stealth shell for the centerline of the F-35B/C and the EA-18 is no longer competitive as a deep penetrator because it’s drag and signature make it so and the F-35 can talk to MALD-J which will be MCALS’d out the back of another asset anyway.

    3. Buy 400+ EFTs and D704 pods to use your remaining Super Hornets as massive whale augments. It will be massively cheaper than the MQ-25.

    4. Acknowledge that the P-8A and MQ-4C are blue water sea control assets that are also utterly unsurvivable from the littoral verge (<200nm offshore) and that the cost of munitions like JASSM-ER (1.8 million) and GBU-53 (120,000) are going to remain high so long as they are multispectral and/or autonomous targeting.

    5. Further acknowledge that Corporate ISR is a long-dwell capability for which counting on the USAF to supply RQ-180 or Satellite data is highly unlikely, even if the USN is the lead service in a SWAPR scenario.

    6. REALIZE that the best the MQ-25 can do is 1:1 with a tanked F/A-18E and maybe 2:1 if you do a hard rework to add CFT to those elements of the inventory which have the fatigue life to accept the loads. With shoulder tanks, the Supers can hit four targets at 900-1,100nm with an 800+300nm combined JASSM-ER load.

    The F-35C, if it is similar to the 815n-on-5,000lbs (F-35A to Oshkosh from Eglin) to the CTOL model, may be better. But it will not target in depth because it is still piloted airframe and thus hang time limited.

    It is further going to cruise in the high 30s whereas the Hornet struggles above 25 and that means different arrival times and staggered tanking orbits.

    7. Conceptualize the alternative: You need to generate a minimum 1,000-1,200 DMPI on the first day to achieve forced entry break-in to the AO. That's never going to happen with twelve F-35s on-deck and is unlikely to do so (without massive KC-46 help) with the Bugs.

    However; an Ohio Followon with 200-400 shot VLS cells for aeroballistics can fire from much closer in. _IF_ it has kill chained targeting to expend them on. Four hundred X 2 plus 200-300 more from a carrier airwing works to get you the SOI ops bubble in which to transition to closer-in effects generation for the land forces.

    Carriers are not there to operate in abstract. They are there to prosecute an OPP campaign in support of own forces or allied troops.

    8. While it is true that the MQ-25 is going to be cheaper than a fighter whale to bring into service, it will not necessarily come to pass that the forward AAR asset is _safe_ from the likes of J-15 and J-20 or Su-35 and Su-57, roving out into the green water.

    This matters, because while nobody cries when a robot dies, a lot of pilots and NFOs on the wrong side of a radius cannot afford to come back out to an Egress Tanker and find it downed. This kills them directly (Swimming Lessons) and it decreases tomorrows ATO generation. An F/A-18E/F with APG-79 and FIRST might survive an attack by a Mighty Dragon. A Navalized Avenger will not.

    9. The original UDS X-45A was designed around a lightweight airframe with 10,000lbs of fuel, an F124 engine and 2hrs endurance at 1,100nm. If you handoff 5,000lbs to a robotic SCAR, you are talking about a 3:1 enablement, whatever the delivery airframe and that in turn translates to 5-10 hours on the pointy end, depending on whether the little feller also taps a tanker on the way back or simply RTC's straight home.

    10. The USNs big problems are a 'tradition' driven service hierarchy which serves the Brown Shoe Fleet more than the warfighter. That tradition has run into a brick wall with the 1,200m DF-21 and the 1,500nm DF-26. The Iranian Khalij Fars is much smaller but still sufficient to cover the entire PG from TELs some 50-100nm inland.

    You must now defeat the SSK, SOSUS, HAEUAV and ROTHR based targeting because the Chinese in particular can afford to trade a 20 million dollar Dong Feng for a 10 million dollar SM3IIa, until the Mk.41s run dry. It is a 20 billion dollar CSG after all.

    11. What will reliably kill BASMs and Hypersonic (Brahmos/Zirkon) CASMs is directed energy and electromagnetic launchers. These will also put a KT boundary on conventional, subsonic, airpower. Unless they become much cheaper with an eye towards losing 50% of your Day-1 force.

    CONCLUSION:
    If you want to go From The Sea Forward into an Asian battlespace on the largest continent in the world, you have to start thinking beyond manned endurance as a means to RISTA the battlespace with complete, corporate, intelligence build.

    You must also think beneath the cost:gain threshold of the current generation of F-35C at 100 million each. And certainly well below the 200 million dollar PCA/NGAD.

    The way to get there is with small UCAVs that can act as direct attack with small diameter bombs or JAGMs on TCT movers. Or perform the SCAR mission on critical, A2AD, theater entry threats like BASM TELs. Using aeroballistics (Hoplite, HSSW) of our own.

    In this, the MQ-25 is a nice to have alternative to four-tank flying the wings off of F/A-18s. But the Hornets themselves are so conceptually outmoded operationally (fatigue) crippled that whether you simply run them through their remaining lives or try to turn them into standoff cruise carriers doesn't really matter. They can't hit what they can't survive or reach to spot.

    What is important is finding a way to lower operations/training account costs (shifting DMPI generation to penny-per-mile VLS missiles) and sustaining a forward, long hangtime, ISR asset that can target for them.

    The USN needs a recoverable UTAP Mako or Valkyrie asset like the USAF is betting on. Instead, they are headed the wrong direction with plussing up a robotic CSA to maintain a manned inventory that is aging badly and being supplemented by an extraordinarily expensive to operate followon.