Home » Aviation » First Super Hornet Inducted Into Service Life Extension Program


First Super Hornet Inducted Into Service Life Extension Program

An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). US Navy Photo

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The first F/A-18F that will have its service life extended beyond 6,000 flight hours arrived at Boeing on Thursday.

The Super Hornet from Naval Air Station Oceania, Va. flew to Boeing’s newly developed service life modification line in Missouri to start a process that will add 3,000 more hours to aircraft, Dan Gillian, Boeing’s head of Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler programs, told reporters on Thursday.

Faced with a looming strike fighter shortfall, the Navy and Boeing began work in 2009 to extend the life of the aircraft first introduced into the fleet in 1999.

“The initial airplanes will go from 6,000 [hours] to 7,500 hours and then from 7,500 to 9,000,” Gillian said.
“Initial airplanes will take 18 months and we’ll work that down to 12 months, that’s the rate we have to get to.”

Eventually, Boeing will work to perform life extensions on 40 to 50 Super Hornets a year split between its line in St. Louis and a second ine in San Antonio, Texas.

“We want to bring the hardest jets here. We’ll do the hard stuff here and we’ll replicate at scale down in San Antonio,” he said.
“Initially, the first six airplanes will come to St. Louis and the seventh will go to San Antonio and then we’ll start alternating.”

Key to the program will be the lessons of a recently completed Service Life Assessment Program (SLAP) in which Boeing tore down two high-hour Super Hornets to map out the modifications needed to extend the service life. The SLAP was borne from the Navy’s experience from the F/A-18 A-D Hornet life extension program that was focused on replacing the center barrel of the airframe. Depots performing the work found unexpected problems unique to each Hornet that required more time to remedy and played havoc with delivery schedules.

Gillian said the new program would be executed differently.

“It’s not like the legacy Hornet where we had the center barrel replacement program. This is more a bit more like spots around the airplane need to be tweaked and adjusted,” he said.
As the program evolves, the service is set to upgrade the current Block II Super Hornets with new data links, conformal fuel tanks and upgraded avionics to a Block III configuration.

“Block III will get introduced into production in 2020 in 2022 we’ll start doing Block II to III conversions. The Navy’s vision is to convert all Block II Super Hornets into Block III Super Hornets,” Gillian said.
“The service life modification, starting at about 2022 will take Block II Super Hornets and convert them into Block III Super Hornets.”

 

  • Sir Bateman

    Don’t conformal fuel tanks typically affect the maneuverability/performance envelope of the aircraft that they’re added to? If so does the USN simply see this as a small penalty to pay in order to gain the bonus of significantly increased range? I’m not saying that the USN shouldn’t add CFT to their Super Hornets, I’m just curious is all.

    • Ser Arthur Dayne

      They do but it’s much, much less than drop-tanks and when you calculate the “cost-benefit analysis” it makes the CFTs very beneficial for increasing range. Granted, if you were talking about a pure air-to-air mission aka “dogfight” , you might not want the added drag penalty. But for just about any “strike” mission , CFTs increase range (sometimes, substantially) with minimal penalties on drag, whereas drop-tanks cause much more drag penalties, and therefore a substantial amount of the fuel they carry really goes to simply carrying them (which is ridiculous when you think about it.)

      • Sir Bateman

        Right on, thanks for the feedback.

      • CharleyA

        CFTs can reduce drag in certain profiles. Both the shaping of the CFTs wrt the fuselage, and eliminating other EFTs helps to reduce overall drag. Other benefits include a slightly reduced radar signature, increased payload / available weapons stations, and higher operational altitudes.

        • Bryan

          On an older FA how does the CFT help with payload? Wouldn’t the overall weight of the aircraft remain the same?

          I understand they have more room to put bombs but wouldn’t that just overweight it. And wouldn’t that be more true on cat/trap?

          • CharleyA

            The shaping of the CFTs reduces some types of drag, particularly wrt wing EFTs, and the net gain allows for increased payload for the same range. It depends on the mission profile, the weapons loadout, etc.

          • Duane

            Payload is a fixed number, consisting of weaps and external fuel. Improving aerodynamics does not increase payload, which is a function of weight. Improved aerodynamics, very slighly so on an airframe that carries all of its weaps externally, can have only a slight effect on range, and no effect on payload.

        • USNVO

          Sorry, payload actually goes down as the weight of the CFTs increases the empty weight of the aircraft but doesn’t increase the maximum weight of the aircraft. It does however increase the effective payload by freeing weapon stations for weapons that would otherwise be used for fuel tanks. It also reduces the bring back payload since again, the weight of the tanks adds to the aircraft weight although not as much as the extra EFTs would. Of course in an emergency you can drop the EFTs which is not an option for the CFTs.

          • Duane

            Well, no. Yes, the CFTs free more hard points, but the total payload in pounds remains constant at 17,750 for the SH. That is the combination of weaps plus external fuel. Filling all 4 CFTs to the max 515 gal each results in an external fuel load of over 14,000 pounds. That gets subtracted from 17,750, leaving just 3,750 pounds of weaps. After subtracting the normal load of AIM120s and AIM9Xs for AA combat, you’re left with little to nothing for surface attack, whether bombs or Harpoons etc.

          • USNVO

            I believe there are only 2 CFTs with 3500lbs of fuel each, not 4.

          • CharleyA

            I was implying the effective payload vs. EFTs, but I take your point. It was my understanding that the CFTs were going to be lighter than the EFTs with pylons, but who knows at this point.

          • USNVO

            As I understand it, the pair of CFTs will add something like 7000lbs of fuel and weigh around 800lbs each, so figure 1600lb increase in basic weight of the aircraft when the CFTs are installed. That is going to be roughly what two 480gal EFTs weigh but with much less drag. So you will free up a couple of stations but you still have to stay under your max weight. So as long as you don’t go crazy with the two extra stations, everything is to the good. The biggest problem will be if you have an emergency, with EFTs you can punch them and everything in them and be instantly 8000+lbs or so lighter. With CFTs you will be dumping fuel like crazy as well as having an extra 1600lbs you can’t get rid of so you will need to dump even more fuel to make up for that. Still a pretty good deal.

      • David Oldham

        Not sure that drop tanks will still not be used in conjunction with the CFTs to get even more range and yes the payload will suffer greatly but it’s better than putting a carrier into the killing zone.

        • Ser Arthur Dayne

          Yes thank you.;… the question was whether CFTs affect maneuverability & performance, which I believe I answered in detail. Never said CFTs & drop tanks were mutually exclusive.

        • Rocco

          Stupid comment!

    • Duane

      The range improvement isn’t that much with the Block III CFTs – just 80 nm range and 40 nm improvement in combat radius (from 360 nm to 400 nm … as compared to 630 nm for the F-35C).

      Being conformal the added drag is relatively small compared to a drop tank.

    • Rocco

      Good question!! As SAD below said the advantage of having no drop tanks is less drag! More room for weapons. With best center of gravity is the biggest advantage as the fuel is on both sides of the top rib back bone.

  • RunningBear

    “As the program evolves, the service is set to upgrade the current Block
    II Super Hornets with new data links, …and upgraded
    avionics to a Block III configuration.” “The Block III upgrade also consists of an “advanced cockpit system with a
    large-area display for improved user interface, a more powerful
    computer called the distributed targeting processor network, a bigger
    data pipe for passing information called Tactical Targeting Network
    Technology.” Rockwell Collins Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) is proposed to be upgraded for the 560+ SBugs. While the USN will purchase 340 F-35C and 353 F-35B with Northrop Grumman’s Multifunction Advanced Data Link
    (MADL). Gee, perhaps they might consider something more common/ less expensive than requiring an “Interpretation System” like the Einstein Box, for all concerned??
    🙂

  • RunningBear

    ….sorry to belabor the point, I forgot the USAF 1,763 F-35A with the Northrop Grumman’s Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL).
    🙂

  • Joey Nadal

    Wish they come up with a future variant of the F14 tomcat.

    • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

      There were 3 versions of the Tomcat, A, B & D

      What they have now is better.
      Nostalgia was and is the best thing going for the Tomcat.

      • Curtis Conway

        When I muse about the F-14 Tomcat, the memory is of a fully capable platform that could do so much in the air. With modern systems, new engines, and a system NOT requiring 54 maintenance man hours for every flight hour, then we would really have something that is even superior today. The Super Hornet does not get you there, and the F-35C gets you most of the way there given everything available today. The United States Navy needs a new F-14D Tomcat in ‘capability’. Taking two steps back and taking one forward is NOT progress. Now the US Navy wish it had this very thing today with A2AD in place by our adversaries.

        • CharleyA

          Meh… Not sure how F-35C gets you “there” any better than a Block III Super Hornet. They will have roughly the same range, and share the same weps, but MC/FMC rates and mx hours / costs for the JSF are pretty atrocious. I’m not luv’in it yet. Now the Tomcat was a beast (in a good way) but the same cost issues look like they will be hobbling the F-35Cs. I hope the NGAD AoA due this year will prescribe a new manned heavy/long range aircraft akin to the Tomcat, but who knows.

          • Curtis Conway

            I’m more in agreement with you than not, but having the range and engagement qualities of the F-14 are not replaced with the F/A-18E even Blk III with the latest upgraded GE F414 engine. The new AESA radar, new high-powered computer supporting the distributed targeting processor network or DTPN and the tactical targeting network technology (TTNT) waveforms that enable NIFC-CA, will help. The F-35C has stealth, and limited but unique Electronic Warfare capabilities making it superior at the start. At what cost? Well, ALIS is supposed to fix that, and make logistical support more affordable, and efficient in time. Anything else is the truth considering ALIS maturity at present, and not likely to improve greatly given the ownership will NEVER be GFE, but held by Lockheed Martin, and thus they will always have the upper hand . . . on everybody.

          • Duane

            The conformal fuel tank for SH Block III only adds 80 nm of range, and 40 nm of combat radius, still leaving far shorter legged than F-35C …. i.e., a combat radius of just 400 nm with the CFT vs. 630 nm for the F-35C on internal fuel. And the SH still has to give up an equal weight in weaps load to fill the CFT.

            It is not even a contest on combat radius with F-35.

            And the new adaptive engine for the F135 will deliver significantly more range and thrust to the F-35 (all models) in two increments starting in 2020 … 6% increased range in the first increment, and another 20+% in the second increment a couple years later, retrofitted to existing engines and standard on all new engines … meaning the C and A models will have the same 800 nm combat radius on internal fuel as a F-15E, our longest legged fighter.

          • CharleyA

            According to Northrop Grumman, the contractor for the CFT:
            “For a typical strike mission, a Super Hornet or Growler with CFT can increase its unrefueled radius by up to 130 nautical miles.” Not 80nm or 40nm as you state. It’s probably going to be ~110nm improvement in combat radius

            Adaptive cycle F135 is not funded for the F-35 yet – not sure where your pulling that factiod from. Pratt wants to do it (as does GE,) but the funding has not be allocated by the program office, and it’s not mentioned as part of the Block 4.x C2D2/FOM.

            Meanwhile, the Navy is seeking funding for F414 efficiency improvements in their FY19 UPL.

          • Duane

            You’re mixing apples and oranges, dude.

            Accordng to the Navy Times the conformal tank in Block III only increases the capacity of the EXTERNAL FUEL TANK (it’s not internal fuel) from 480 gal to 515 gal, or just 35 extra gal per tank. That’s only a max of 140 extra gal, or 952 pounds additionl fuel, which is just a 7.3% bump in external fuel capacity over the existing drop tanks if all four tanks are filled. And filling all four external fuel tanks results in a payload penalty (fewer weaps carried) of over 14,000 pounds. The max combination of weaps load and external fuel for the SH is just 17,750 pounds, so if you subtract 14,000 pounds for external fuel, that leaves less than 3,750 pounds of weaps (significantly less than the F-35C can carry internally in full VLO). And the SH at that load will handle like a pig.

          • CharleyA

            And you’re discounting the significant drag reduction / range boost afforded by the CFTs vs. EFTs – which is why they are being developed in the first place. And check your math: 1 center EFT (480gal) + 2 CFT (515gal) = ~10,268lbs of external gas. There would not be a four external tank configuration.

          • Duane

            If that is correct then the range extension is even more puny. Just 105 gallons added fuel.

          • Scott Ferguson

            “They will have roughly the same range, and share the same weps, but MC/FMC rates and mx hours / costs for the JSF are pretty atrocious.”?

            You left out RCS….

          • CharleyA

            Specialized capability not required most of the time.

          • Scott Ferguson

            REQUIRED capability, needed ALL the time.

          • CharleyA

            If it is required 100% of the time, then why is the Navy buying ~140 new Super Hornets between now and 2023? Answer: It is NOT required most of the time. Nice to have, but expensive and thus fiscally impractical – as the USAF is (re) learning.

          • Duane

            The Navy is buying them, unlike the USAF and Marines, because their 5th gen isnt IOC yet, and out of long habit, and the ever faithful “admirals love to fight the last war, not the next one”, some factions in naval aviation think we’ll be bombing jihadis in technicals 20 years from now, just as they have for the last 17 years.

            Nowadays the jihadis are being supplied Iranian built S300s. Already.

          • Scott Ferguson

            Hint: It’s the ONLY thing available.

            Much like the last single gal standing at last call…

            “Nice to have, but expensive and thus fiscally impractical – as the USAF is (re) learning.”?

            Cute.

            What EXACTLY is the USAF “learning”?

          • Rocco

            Lol

          • CharleyA

            The only thing available? How about the F-35C? It should IOC early next year (late again, btw.) If they ordered F-35Cs today, they could have them in two years (roughly the same timeframe as Super Hornets) – well after IOC. But for some reason, the Navy wants more – a lot more – Super Hornets. Hint: Block 4 isn’t available until mid 2020s. And Super Hornets are ~40% less expensive to acquire, and much less expensive to operate.

            Like other stealth aircraft in the USAF inventory, they cost A LOT to acquire and operate, hence the net result of fewer airframes ordered than envisioned. The USAF has now decided to keep A-10s; and upgrade F-16s (and F-15s) instead of replacing them with F-35s.

          • Rocco

            What crap is that thinking!!

          • Duane

            VLO is required for every mission in contested airspace, unless you don’t mind losing most of your aircraft and flight crew.

            Contested airspace is well along the path to becoming all airspace with the rapid proliferation of Russian and Chinese air defense systems, such that even ragtag 3rd world countries and rebel outfits have them today … from Houthis to Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

          • Duane

            Not even close on range on internal fuel. The CFTs merely replace external tanks, and still count (just like external tanks) against max payload, meaning that when filled, weaps load goes down by the same weight.

            The Block III stil has only a 360 nm combat radius on internal fuel vs. 630 nm for F-35C.

        • William Sager

          Ironically seeing that the F-15 production line still exist it would be much easier to produce a modified version of F-15s for carrier use than go back and redesign the F-14 and produce factory tooling for a new aircraft only intended to be used in limited numbers. Perhaps it could be a variant of the propose Silent Eagle which some want to build as a back up for F-22s.

          • Curtis Conway

            Obviously not the words of a Naval Aviator, or Aeronautical Engineer who understand design and flight qualities of carrier aircraft.

          • DaSaint

            Not a snowball’s chance in…
            Not happening.

          • Rocco

            Negative!!

        • Sir Bateman

          I seem to remember reading an article by a guy who claimed that he’d flown both the F-14 and the F-18 operationally. If memory serves me correct he compared the F-14 to a late 1960s muscle car and the Super Hornet to a brand new Honda Accord with all the latest and greatest features. A lot of people have dogged on the Tomcat as being 1960s era technology, including former SECDEF & VP Cheney, but two of the F-14’s contemporaries in the F-15 & F-16 are still in production and nobody claims that they’re totally obsolete.

          I suppose what’s done is done, but I still believe that the powers at be messed up big time in not continuing F-14 production and outfitting them with the latest technology, like’s been done with the aforementioned F-15 & F-16.

          • DaSaint

            Couldn’t agree more. The F-15s and F-16s complemented each other nicely, and do so to this day. The F-14 and F/A-18 could have done the same. I could have accepted the retirement of the A-6 if I knew that the F-14 didn’t go away with it.

          • Curtis Conway

            The F-35B/C Lightning II JSF, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet & EA-18G Growler will function well as a team. Even better than the F-15/F-16 team. In a decade we will have NIFC-CA in every Navy Air Wing, and even FFG(X) will be joining the fleet in numbers. Backfit of DDG-51 Flt IIAs and Flt IIIs (and the CGs so upgraded) will spread NIFC-CA, though only those early models able to upgrade probably to B/L-9 will join that group.

            If we just had a V/STOVL AEW&C to go with the Team. The E-2D Hawkeye, and E-3G Sentry are not always able to support where and when we need them, though they do a good job of providing services most everywhere. Taking AEW&C with you on anything, going anywhere (like an Icebreaker) would be MORE than just a ‘good idea’, but a Game-Changer technology and capability, particularly for Fleet Marine Forces.

          • Ctrot

            Sounds like an article I read in “Flight Journal”. Great magazine.

          • Sir Bateman

            It might very well have been now that you mention it. Was that the one where they had two aviators who had flown the Tomcat and the Super Hornet debating the relative pros and cons of each aircraft?

            If so I seem to remember that the back and forth debate those two pilots make some of the debates on here look like child’s play.

          • Rocco

            When the Hornet came on line in the early 80’s Phantom pilots kicked the crap out of F-18A/B’s .

          • Rocco

            Wrong interpretation!! The Tomcat is a 70’s aircraft!! The real muscle Jet is the Phantom of the 60’s to present as they are still in service…. But not with our military as of 2016 .

        • Duane

          The F-35C has far longer legs than the Tomcat – 630 nm combat radius today, and 800 nm in a few years with the adaptive cycle F135 engines vs. only 500 nm for the F-14. And as for “doing more” the F-35 does vastly more than a Tomcat ever did … vastly better sensors, vastly better secure comms, stealthy vs. not stealthy, and the F-35 has a computer brain that of course the Tomcat never had. And deploying smart weapons and sophisticated ECM that simply did not exist back when the Tomcats flew.

          • Curtis Conway

            Complain today to a congressman near you to fund it (Adaptive Cycle F135 engines) then. I’d rather see GE’s Adaptive Cycle Engine though. They build Real Fighter Engines.

          • Duane

            DOD had already funded a portion of the R&D. P&W just unveiled their two step upgrade, with step 1 being no additional cost, either as a new build or as a retrofit on engines coming into the depot for a routine hot section inspection, and P&W says it will be ready to deploy in less than two years. Step 2 hasn’t been fully tested yet

          • Rocco

            Nothing like the J-79!!

          • Curtis Conway

            You are dating yourself now!

          • Rocco

            Copy that!!

          • Curtis Conway

            Duane, I have read your comment many times over the last day, and bit my tongue, and held my peace, but now it is obvious to me that an understanding of a flight profile created by operational qualifications listed in a text, is not just the only way an aircraft is operated/employed. A Tomcat can come out of burner off the cat and stay in maximum conserve with wings forward and use most efficient climb rate, and maybe top off at the tanker bringing his fuel to a MAX STATE (with two external tanks) and we could squeeze quite a range out of the Tomcat much further than you suggest. Adm Tuttle used to send Strike Groups 1,000 miles regularly (every cruise at least once) just to show everyone (remind them) we could. With A2AD staring us in the face today, there is many a Strike Group Commander who wish he had that capability. THIS is what we gave up when we let the F-14 Tomcat go.

          • Duane

            What you write is applicable to any aircraft … fly it to conserve fuel, and refuel in the air, and the effective combat radius goes up. The only hard limit to any fighter’s range is the endurance of the human pilot in hours. Else how do pilots ferry any fighter across the thousands of miles of the open Pacific Ocean?

            With that being said, every aircraft type has its inherent “legs” based upon internal fuel, allowing maximum weapons payload, without aerial refueling. Add external tanks, and the weaps payload necessarily goes down. Aerial refueling takes its toll too, requiring (today) one Super Hornet to refuel just one or two other SHs a single time, thus reducing the effective carrier attack force by 33% to 50%.

            F-35 critics repeatedly say untruthfully that a shortcoming of the F-35 is range, when in fact the truth is the opposite, that the F-35C has the longest legs of any carrier based supersonic attack aircraft in history. The F-35’s inherently longer range make it much more effective and efficient in delivering pounds of weapons on target than either of the Super Hornet or the old Tomcats.

          • Curtis Conway

            NOT any aircraft has swing wings. That single fact adds a whole new dimension to the equation . . . and I was there to live it with them.

          • Duane

            So did the F111. The F-111 and the F-14 were retired decades ago, fine in their time, and hopelessly obsolete today.

            A repeated theme in most of your comments on USNI, Curtiss, is your opposition to new systems and pining for the hardware from back in your active duty days. It is not productive to try and preserve the old Navy of the 20th century when we are now nearing the middle of the 21st century. Technology changes whether you like it or not.

            It is not disrespectful of past ships, aircraft, weapons, and sensors to replace them with new and far more capable stuff. I served on a 637 class SSN during my Navy days, and in its prime in the late 60s and the 70s it ruled the undersea warfare theater. But by the 80s and early 90s it was replaced by the newer and better 688s, and the 688s are now being replaced with far more capable Virginia class SSNs. Such change and progress is always inevitable.

          • Curtis Conway

            Proverbs 18:1-4
            1 An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends
            and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.

            2 Fools find no pleasure in understanding
            but delight in airing their own opinions.

            3 When wickedness comes, so does contempt,
            and with shame comes reproach.

            4 The words of the mouth are deep waters,
            but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.

            5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked
            and so deprive the innocent of justice.

          • Rocco

            Amen!! Kudos!!

          • CharleyA

            F-14A+ / F-14D (GE engines) could launch w/o afterburner. Switching to the GE engines extended their range 50%+ in some profiles.

          • tiger

            Exactly. A real dedicated air to air fighter. With range, speed, agilie, with lots of missiles & a gun. And can reach stuff outside the range of Aegis Sams.

          • Curtis Conway

            I like the way you think. No non-sense.

          • Rocco

            He thinks like an 🤥

          • Rocco

            Dude…… The Tomcat didn’t have a Computer!!!??? How do you think the Phoenix missile system works!!

          • Duane

            Not a computer like the F-35 has. Any more than a 1960s mainframe computer resembles today’s super computer. The smart phone carried in your pocket is far mor powerful and capable than anything in use in the 60s or 70s.

          • Rocco

            OK I get that agreed!! But a computer is a computer so careful on how you say things!

        • Rocco

          The problem is Curtis Grumman closed the long Island plant! They only build the E-2C/D now & I believe that’s in Georgia.

          • Curtis Conway

            OH . . . the problem is worse than that. All the production equipment and jigs that were in storage were destroyed as part of a DoD vote in congress, and it was a stipulation placed in the law (unknown to some, and much to chagrin of many) and the destruciton was carried out. These are the kinds of people who need to be Keel-Hauled. The titanium construction jigs alone were priceless. Much of the other structure in a new construct F-14 would be totally new, using new technologies and materials, but that center titanium structure was a beast, electron welded, and priceless. Tomcats are gone for ever, and with it went the capability. The US Navy, for expedience sake, took several steps back, and the recovery position (all f-18 force) didn’t get close to maintaining the threshold that now stares us in the face in a A2AD environment.

          • Rocco

            That was so Iran don’t get their hands on them!! They now have 24 Flying!

          • Curtis Conway

            Easy problem to fix!

          • Rocco

            Copy that!!!! …….Hate to destroy our own make… Even our Phantoms we sold them!!

    • William Sager

      I wish pilots would not assume North Missouri is uninhabited when they fly into St Louis and sneak in a opportunity to kick in the afterburners one last time to empty the fuel tanks of extra fuel. We get sonic booms almost every week.

      • Curtis Conway

        Would you rather they pump the fuel overboard instead of burning it? Aviators and pilots LIVE to make Fuel into Noise.

    • Rocco

      Why??

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    18 months to refurb a fighter jet!
    They are having a laugh with that.

    The long awaited “Advanced Super Hornet” isn’t going to happen either.
    Block III will be an incremental improvement, a very long time in the making.

    • CharleyA

      Block III is a collection of long planned product improvements, bundled together. It will net a nicely balanced set of capabilities at a substantially reduced cost compared to other, long delayed and expensive platforms. ASH as Boeing conceptualized it is dead. But the Super Hornet continues its spiral development, not bad for an aircraft that was thought to be EOL just a few years ago.

  • Duane

    Has the cost of the SH SLEP been published yet? The description of the scope of work and the 12-18 month timeframe sounds relatively expensive compared to the purchase of a new airframe.

  • Eyes open

    I would be interested in the difference in price between the SLEP and building a new plane with all the new goodies. Didn’t one of our allies just buy some new Hornets?

    • CharleyA

      Kuwait just contracted for 28 Super Hornets in a unique configuration, i.e. not necessarily the same Block III configuration that the Navy will acquire. New Block III Super Hornets will cost ~$70M in FY19 (for delivery in 2020/21,) and extending the life of Block IIs by 50% should cost substantially less than half of that $70M – one would hope. Note that F-35B/Cs cost ~$120M in FY19.

      • Scott Ferguson

        Note F-35’s are far more capable of surviving in a modern IADS environment.

        • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

          Yeah, well, that remains to be seen…

          • Scott Ferguson

            Yeah, keep squirming…

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            Why would I squirm? I support the flight test program with hardware I designed?

          • Duane

            Not so … unless you believe our air defenses are inferior to those of our adversaries.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            I don’t take a S-400 lightly?

      • How long has the Super Hornet been in full rate production compared to the Lightning? And how much did the first Super Hornets cost?

        • CharleyA

          FYP ~2000. $99M in FY98; $80M in FY99; $64M in FY00; $60M in FY01; $58M in FY02, according to the FY2001 budget.

          • Those questions were somewhat rhetorical, but your reply got me to go back through the old budgets and confirm some numbers. While it may be surprising, an F-35C today is actually cheaper than an F/A-18E/F from back when a similar number had been procured.

            The first F-35C was procured in 2010 and a total of 48 were procured through 2018 with the 2018 planes having a reoccurring flyaway cost of $107m. In contrast, the first F/A-18E/F was produced in 1997 and 62 planes had been procured by 1999. But despite that volume of production, the 1999 batch of Super Hornets had a reoccurring flyaway cost of $109m in 2018 dollars ($72m in then year dollars).

          • CharleyA

            Hmm, I’ll restate the numbers I provided in recurring flyaway, you know, to be consistent with the recurring flyaway you used in your comparison. Feel free to convert to whatever dollar figure you desire.

            Super Hornet: $88.9M in FY98; $72M in FY99; $53.8M in FY00; $54M in FY01; $51.3M in FY02. The recurring flyaway in FY18 was $71.3M, and FY19 is $66.4M.

            According to the FY2010 budget, the recurring flyaway for F-35B/C (they were grouped together at that point) were $196.2M in FY98, $171.8M in FY09; $155.4M in FY10.

            Note that recurring flyaway doesn’t include the helmet, which is an expensive item in the F-35, so recurring flyaway understates costs of the avionics by ~$500K.

            Also note that the JSF gets pretty generous R&D budget of almost $50B against the Super Hornet that got a fraction of that amount, so that does help, along with sizable production of two other co-variants.

          • Trying to figure out what is included in various military budget line items is virtually impossible – I went with recurring cost because you didn’t state which one you were using and it was easy to calculate and a decent proxy.

            The shared budgets also cuts both ways given that the Super Hornet took full advantage of F/A-18A/B/C/D and EA-18G development as well as a hot production line.

            Unfortunately, Disqus is annoying when it comes to large posts with lots of images and numbers so I’ll leave a link to a better picture of what I’m thinking: influenceofhistory . blogspot . com/2018/04/procurement-perspective-F35-vs-FA18 . html (just delete the spaces).

          • CharleyA

            Agreed wrt comparing program costs.

          • Rocco

            Nice debate

    • William Sager

      We will never be able to replace F-18s with F-35’s on a one for one basis with F-35s. Indeed we can’t seem to keep the ones we have flying very much. As such it’s safe to say the St Louis Boeing facility will stay busy for many years to come producing new F-18s as well as refurbishing our F-18s.

      • Duane

        We can and we will fully replace SHs with F-35s, but over a lengthy period. The F-35s have the highest mission capable rate of any fighter we have today.

        • Bubblehead

          Where do you come up with this fiction?

          • Duane

            From published naval plans. All fighters get replaced eventually, due to being superseded in capability and reaching the end of airframe life.

            Any SHs still in service 20 to 25 years from now will be replaced at that time by sixth gens that have not yet been designed. And after all the SHs are gone, then the sixth gens and perhaps seventh gens will begin to replace the F-35s.

            It has always been the fate of all aircraft, all ships, and all weapons to become obsolete and be retired.

    • USNVO

      It all depends on how much you update the aircraft in the process. The center-barrel replacement on the F-18C took roughly 25,000+ man hours and the price varied tremendously based on what had to be replaced.

      If you figure ten technicians work on the aircraft at a time, you are looking at 35,000 man hours for the F-18E. That works out to probably something like $3-5 million for labor plus the pieces and parts that needs to be repaired or replaced. For structures, that is pretty cheap. For electronics, that is going to cost way more and drive the expense up. So just to add 3000hrs to the existing aircraft is something north of $5million. Based on the IRST cost ($2B for 170) plus all the required testing for new displays, datalinks, etc, it is probably conservatively approaching $20-40 million per plane to upgrade but it gets hidden in O&M. For comparison, to upgrade 20 F-16C Block 40s to F-16V configuration is projected at $50million+ for Bahrain but that includes a new radar. The fact that the Navy and Boeing haven’t mentioned a word on cost of upgrades is telling to say the least.

      Building a new plane would be more expensive than a Block II (Boeing estimated something around $1-2m for the service life extension modifications to the airframe. Boeing recently received a $219million contract for design and development for the CFTs (so much for being an off the shelf upgrade) and that was before they actually modified the existing aircraft and purchased CFTs (although that production costs will probably not be that high, most of the costs are non-recurring), the rest of Block III will be substantially more.

      • Curtis Conway

        I’m wondering if some of the rebuilt F/A-18A/B/C/Ds upgraded with F-16V combat system elements would be a good upgrade for some of our Pacific/European Allies needing new multi-mission fighters, particularly countries in mountainous areas, or surrounding mostly by ocean? I know the O&M cost would be greater, but safety and capability would be there, particularly for those requiring NATO compliance, and multi-national weapons compatibility.

        • Scott Ferguson

          No.

          The USN/USMC legacy jets have been thrashed/beaten/worn out.

          Besides being fatigued-out on cat/traps, they’ve been exposed to decades of saltwater spray.

          Stick a fork in them, they’re done.

          • Curtis Conway

            It is interesting to note that the inventory of the Blue Angels aircraft are F-18s that have burned up their carrier hours. Catching a trap after a wrenching cat shot is very strenuous on airframes, but flying off a long flat runway is infinitely easier, and not so hard on the aircraft. Certainly all fleet birds would not be rebuildable, but the NARF activity has created a ready and hot assembly line for F/A-18A/B/C/D rebuilds. That activity is well understood, and the costs are quantified in specific terms. The AESA radar upgrade and F-16V Combat System are quite a capability when replacing old Mig-21s, or equal. For NATO Allies, and a few in the Pacific LInk-16 can be added increasing situational awareness and connectivity for the aggregate force. Even if the neighbors get F-16V Vipers they can share in radar and avionics commonality for mutual logistical support.
            Just a thought.

          • USNVO

            Or, and this is just spit balling, they could just use old F-16s and rebuild them to F-16V configuration. No shortage of those (they are using them for targets) and outside of a very few countries, no one really needs carrier capability.

          • Curtis Conway

            Oh, I’m with you. There are several former Soviet Satellite States who should do just this. Lockheed Martin, encouraged by US DoD should stimulate and facilitate such activity. However, when flying over water, or territory that is predominantly mountains, that second engine really comes in handy sometimes. As the Swiss or the Finns about mountainous territory, and Pacific Rim Airforces about the Pacific, what they think. The SABR AESA radar is already approved for most of our Allies, and NATO use, particularly on the F-16V Viper.

          • Scott Ferguson

            Those ex-WP countries are too broke-ass’d to buy F-16V’s.
            They’re struggling to buy basic, refurbished F-16’s, such as Bulgaria, Romania, etc.

          • Curtis Conway

            I’m wondering what is most cost effective in that specific circumstance.
            1. Assist them to acquire the assets to help develop their economy and augment their defense.
            2. Establish a program for multiple such example countries to use their cumulative purchasing, logistical support, training capabilities to acquire the assets.
            3. Give them the assets before they go to, or from the Boneyard, and let them figure it out for themselves.

          • Scott Ferguson

            Assist them, how?
            They get good deals through the EDA program.

            A lot of the countries using the same equipment do cooperate with logistics and support.

            See the EDA comment.

          • Bubblehead

            I think it was Slovenia that just a few days ago agreed to purchase 14 F16V fighters.

            With all the problems with the F15C’s and the fact they will need something similar to what the Navy is doing now with the SH’s, how would a F16V compare? Could it fill the role of the F15C? The US is going to be in dire need or an air superiority fighter. An upgraded F15C would be a great fighter but they are showing their age.

          • Curtis Conway

            It’s called a High-Low mix for a reason. The F-16V is a very capable aircraft. The new F-15 2030 briefly mentioned for offer to Taiwan is also another option, but more expensive. If I was over water, or predominantly mountainous country, I would want two engines.

          • Scott Ferguson

            “If I was over water, or predominantly mountainous country, I would want two engines.”?

            Like Taiwan, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, etc.?

            Oh, wait….

          • Curtis Conway

            Taiwan’s AIDC F-CK-1 IDF, South Korea’s F-15s and Findlands F-18s have two engines. Loses of those aircraft are low.

          • Scott Ferguson

            Taiwan’s F-16’s…Mirage 2000’s….

            South Korea’s F-16’s & FA-50’s…

            Denmark’s F-16’s…

            Norway’s F-16’s…

            Turkish F-16’s…

            Israeli F-16’s…

            Singapore F-16’s…

            French, Indian, UAE and Peruvian Mirage 2000’s…

            South African, Hungarian, Czech & Thai Gripens…

            USAF Alaska F-16’s…

            I can keep going…

            Try reading the USAF accident database.

            F-16 losses are low.

          • Rocco

            Denmark just sold their F-16’s

          • Scott Ferguson

            LMAO!

            ALL of them?
            When?
            To what country?

            Cite a credible source.

          • Rocco

            To Jordan it was in combat aircraft magazine this month.

          • Duane

            There is little to no safety advantage to twin engines over singles. Modern turbojet engines rarely fail. Most air crashes are due to pilot error. An incontrovertable fact is a twin engine aircraft is twice as likely to suffer an engine failure as a single engine (it’s called “math” … double the parts count, double the probability of one of those parts failing) … and given that twinjet fighters put both engines side by side inside the fuselage, if one engine catches fire or energetically disintegrates, it is very likely to damage or destroy the other engine beside it.

            That is quite likely what happened to the recent Super Hornet fatal crash at NAS Key West that has been confirmed to first lose one engine, then lost the other engine on final approach to landing. Witnesses saw a fireball in the air before it crashed.

          • Rocco

            We don’t use turbo Jets any longer!!

          • Scott Ferguson

            No, Slovenia is buying ex-Israeli F-16’s with an update.

          • Rocco

            I don’t think so

          • Rocco

            Yes article was in combat aircraft magazine! They don’t need a heavier aircraft that’s ment & over built for carrier duty. The F-16 will be around alot longer than the Eagle F-15C.

          • Viktor Amruš

            It’s Slovakia.
            Slovenia has no air-force at all.

          • Rocco

            Why??? The Jets are stripped anyway.

          • USNVO

            My point was there are plenty of old F-16s out there (quite literally thousands) that already have a well developed upgrade path with the F-16V. No need to try to repeat that with a F-18 which has no clear path for further upgrade and a much smaller user base. So why dump untold billions into worn out F-18s to reproduce the F-16V,

          • Rocco

            Just who are we talking about here! Our Navy or allies?

          • USNVO

            I was responding to the previous post about reconstructing F-18s for allies.

          • Rocco

            Well depending on what country & how many flight hrs left in their F-16’s to be worth it $ wise. The last new F-16 was just built & shipped. The F-18 line is still open! Also depending on the countries environment the Hornet is a tougher bird with 2 engines!

          • Scott Ferguson

            What exactly would “rebuilding” entail?

            Doing CBR’s wouldn’t be cost effective any longer.
            They’re 30-year old airframes that have been thrashed.

            NATO allies?
            There’s no way an ally would touch them.
            They’ll go with either cheap F-16’s or brand new F-35’s.

            “Even if the neighbors get F-16V Vipers they can share in radar and avionics commonality for mutual logistical support.”

            Or buy F-16’s and have that cheap, vast logistic support.

          • Rocco

            Funny that you mentioned the Blue Angles. As far as stress on the airframe is concerned they put just as much stress on the Jets just as much as fleet aircraft! Mind you they are stripped down of everything! Sooner or later their gonna have to go to the Supper Hornet.

          • Curtis Conway

            Yes . . . and it’s not today. That decision has already been made. It’s amazing how the USAF looses so many Thurderbirds with brand new F-16s.

          • Rocco

            What do you mean brand new? One was lost last week pilot perished! Sad! I’m gonna see them next month & will ask that question on what block # they fly.

          • Curtis Conway

            I think they are brand new F-16 Blk 50s right off the assembly line when they join the team.

          • Rocco

            Hmm interesting! I thought they got hand me downs! I will ask next month’s airshow.

          • Rocco

            BTW brand new is up to Block 70!

          • Curtis Conway

            They HAVE been flying for a while.

          • Rocco

            So which is newer?

          • Curtis Conway

            Ask them at the airshow. Those USAF pilots should know EXACTLY how many hours are on their aircraft, and all the gripes that have been written against it . . . IF they are a professional aviator.

          • Rocco

            I will, it’ll be a couple weeks from now

          • CharleyA

            There are, or at least were going to transition to Super Hornets. Now that all active duty squadrons (only 3 left) will be turning in their legacy Hornets by the end of this year, there may be plenty of “slightly used” F/A-18Cs up for grabs.

          • Rocco

            You mean they? The remaining Hornets are supposed to transfer to the Marines to hold them over.

          • tiger

            The Blues Need a replacement bird. Moving to the T-45 would make some sense.

          • Rocco

            Not gonna happen

        • Rocco

          The Swiss would be one as they launch Hornets from a mountain inside! Like a James Bond movie!

          • Curtis Conway

            And they do. That is why they have F-18s instead of F-16s. Tails too tall.

          • Rocco

            On what the F-16?

          • Curtis Conway

            They missed gong into the tunnels by inches. Otherwise they would have been F-16s in the beginning. I was on Active Duty when that decision was made. The big joke was that ‘the F-16 missed that intercept by inches’.

          • Rocco

            I was also! 1st class PO by then! The F-5 was also used by then this way . Got a book just on the Swiss F-5’s. A fellow volunteer works for Northrup / Grumman played a big part with that program! Unfortunately stress cracks in the E model grounded them.

        • tiger

          Right now The big fighter deal on the table is India. The Air force wants 110 new fighters, and production to 70% in India. LockMart, Boeing, Saab, BAe, & the French all are choices.

          • Curtis Conway

            Used to know some of those Lockmart boys. I thought they had the F-16 deal wrapped up. THAT would really be something if India took it on. Building Vipers out of India has potential even for the future. Not every solution is Stealth, particularly in most locations on the planet, particularly if your ROE is BVR engagements. India’s engagement equation is a whole lot easier than ours . . . most of the time.

          • tiger

            But buying American means strings and politics. A reason we have lost a few sales deals lately.

          • Curtis Conway

            We also have to protect technology. That is what export controls are all about.

          • El_Sid

            It also means dealing with Americans, and AIUI there’s been more than one deal lost because of the people involved being so arrogant towards their customers, it’s gone down like a cup of sick.

            To be fair, now that India are interested in more high-tech stuff they’re being forced to deal with the US – there wasn’t much alternative for the P-8 deal, and the US is finally getting a bit of a grip and realising how they need India as a counterweight to China (hence things like the EMALS offer).

          • Rocco

            What would they use E-MAIL’s for?? They would need a new carrier for this!

          • El_Sid

            Exactly – they’re looking at it for the planned INS Vishal, a 65,000t carrier which is currently at the design stage.

          • Rocco

            So is this carrier gonna be a hybrid powerplant? Or Nuke? Also what aircraft! I thought they only fly Harriers?

          • El_Sid

            All that kind of thing is yet to be decided – I suspect they may follow the British in talking about nuclear but burning oil in the end. It won’t be operational until 2030 or so.

            Don’t forget their Air Force will be getting Rafales next year; there’s a separate RFI for 57 carrier planes which is realistically between F/A-18 and Rafale. But with Rafale already in the inventory and being made in India, it has to be the favourite for the air wing of INS Vikrant, their indigenous 40,000t carrier which will finally commission in 2-3 years time.

          • Rocco

            I didn’t know Rafale was made in India! Under license I presume. We just had a squadron deployed with one of our carriers.i personally don’t care for it!

          • El_Sid

            Not yet, but it’s part of the deal they signed with Dassault – India is very hot on work shares and indigenisation. It does the job, it will certainly be a significant increase in capability for the Indians and suits them quite well as it can carry nukes and has a naval variant.

          • Rocco

            Agreed except for their Navy!

      • Marauder 2048

        “The fact that the Navy and Boeing haven’t mentioned a word on cost of upgrades is telling to say the least.”

        If Super Hornet Block upgrades were the least bit affordable all of the Block I Hornets would have been upgraded to Block II.

        • Scott Ferguson

          Who mentioned Blk 1 upgrades?

          • Marauder 2048

            Certainly not the Navy. Those concurrency orphans are the reason for the Block IIIs in the first place .

          • Curtis Conway

            So, F/A-18E/F Blk Is could go to other operators as the Blk IIIs come on line?

      • Scott Ferguson

        “Building a new plane would be more expensive than a Block II (Boeing estimated something around $1-2m for the service life extension modifications to the airframe.”?

        $1-2 million for a SLEP?

        Are you joking?

        Maybe for a Cessna 152…

        • USNVO

          No, I was saying how much more Boeing indicated “Building a new plane…” with the revised components already installed on the production line. No SLEP, just building a new plane for 9000hrs to begin with.

          • Scott Ferguson

            Fair enough.
            I wouldn’t believe what Boeing says, or any other defence contractor with regards to an “estimated” cost.

          • USNVO

            I never do, but in this case it seems reasonable. You are just installing different parts when the plane is built as opposed to tearing out the old parts and installing new ones and then putting everything back together.

            However, if you are just extending the life of the airframe, you can just put the original designed part back in, you already have finished 2/3 of your service with the first part, the next one only needs to go half that long. A new part that can go 9000hrs from the get go will require a lot more work and certification and can easily generate new problems. For example, the new wings for the A-6E solved the wing cracking issue (well at least some of them, it was going to have to have another new wing) but led to the fuselage cracking which forced the Navy to finally give up on them.

          • Scott Ferguson

            Not that simple or easy.

            Look at some of the past re-cap programs.

            AV-8B, AH-64’s, AH-1Z, UH-1Y, E-8….

          • USNVO

            Agreed, but the F-18 is not like most of those programs as they are not redesigning the aircraft, just beefing up the airframe in places to extend its life. However, as you note, even that can be tricky.

          • Scott Ferguson

            “…the F-18 is not like most of those programs as they are not redesigning the aircraft, just beefing up the airframe in places to extend its life.”

            Famous, last words of a LOT of programs.

      • RunningBear

        While details of the SLM upgrade weren’t revealed, they reportedly include various doublers, new material components and corrosion inhibitors installed across key structural areas of the aircraft. “The initial focus of this program will extend the life of the fleet from 6,000 to 9,000 flight hours,” Boeing SLM program director Mark Sears said. Boeing has previously pitched the SLM process as an ideal time for the US Navy to begin the incorporation of other proposed Block 3 enhancements for the Super Hornet.

        Block 2 SBugs are the last 410 built, Lot 26+, where Block 1 are the first 130ish up thru Lot 25. It appears that the Block 1 is not being considered for the SLM, much less Block 3 and are not upgraded with the APG-79 AESA radar.

        The service life modification (SLM) upgrade is a key element of the emerging Super Hornet Block 3 enhancement package, and will see the aircraft’s airframe life extended from 6,000 hours to more than 9,000 flight hours. “SLM will expand to include Block II to Block III conversion, systems grooming and reset and O-level maintenance tasks designed to deliver a more maintainable aircraft with an extended life and more
        capability. Each of these jets will fly another 10 to 15 years, so making them next-generation aircraft is critical.”

        These proposed upgrades include but are not restricted to the installation of plumbing and mounts for upper fuselage conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), development of which was funded in mid-February, optical fibre wiring to support new generation sensors and weapons, the new Tactical Targeting Networking Technology (TTNT) datalink and Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) computer, integration of the ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures (IDECM) Block 4 EW suite, a new 10” x 19” large screen cockpit display, enhancements to the APG-79 AESA radar, and further improvements to the aircraft’s radar cross section. Also funded and due to enter service in 2019 is a new centre-line auxiliary fuel tank which incorporates an upgraded Lockheed Martin AAS-42 infrared search and track sensor, dubbed IRST21 Block 2.
        🙂

        • USNVO

          Yes, that is the happy talk from Boeing. To date, the Navy has funded the CFTs, some APG-79 radar fixes to hopefully work out all the bugs, and some of the Block II upgrades (updated EW gear, IRST pod, etc) . We will have to see about everything else.

    • Rocco

      Yes 2

      • Ctrot

        What is the difference between what “Eyes open” advocates which you agree with and what “D. Jones” advocates which you attacked?

        • Rocco

          Oh stop!! Seriously !! Totally 2 different questions!! Eyes open didn’t advocate anything!! Rhetorical tart!!

          • Ctrot

            Rhetorical.

  • D. Jones

    Would be nice to see the cost per flight hour of the refurb (1500-3000 hours) vs a new plane (presumably >6k hours since they now know where the weaknesses are).

    Compare the cost of a restoration of a car vs. a new one. Then compare a full frame up resto (still inferior due to hidden corrosion & stress fatigue). Both wind up being more expensive if you add in hours of dismantling, loss of production line efficiencies, off-drawing patches and repairs.

    Honestly, the program sounds more like a politically palatable “solution” than doing the right thing. Planes wear out. Downrate them and use the old ones for trainers or sell them.

    What is actually re-used on the plane? I’d like to see a list or graphic. Is the cost savings of whatever is being reused > new (frame, etc). Is it just a question of speed of delivery or something else?

    My “this is maybe not a good deal” radar is going off.

    • Rocco

      You have no idea what your talking about!! First of all…. Comparing the rebuild of a car makes no sense compared to Naval Jets! Yes turn your brain off because it doesn’t work to begin with!

      • Ctrot

        Physician, heal thyself.

        • Rocco

          MYOB

  • DaSaint

    Now if only the Ford will be able to launch them by the time they’re upgraded…

    • Duane

      The Ford is launching SHs today.

  • Matthew Schilling

    What about the 404-EPE? 20% more thrust would be a very big deal.

    • USNVO

      GE pipe dream. The Navy has not expressed any interest in the billions of dollars required to develop and certify the new engine. They have expressed an interest in an engine with increased reliability, however no new engines or sections thereof have been funded.

  • b2

    Hard to figure what this will cost per jet…I suppose the cost of a SuperHornet SLEP (basically a center barrel+ replacement) will be equivalent to a legacy Hornet SLEP, Plus. That means it will probably cost upwards of ~ $20M a copy for another 3000 hrs of life. That comes to about $6500/flt hour for the additional hours …Simple math I know but you can’t tell real numbers from reading double-speak of the article. Is that a good deal? Who knows? The only other option is to buy more new SuperHornets and that is what we seem to be doing also… the F-35C doesn’t mitigate anything…

    What is ironic, is that back in 2011-12 a proposal/idea to mitigate the existing Strike Fighter Gap/legacy
    F-18C SLEPs was floated to bring back KS-3Bs as dedicated airwing tankers to offset the looming SuperHornet fatigue life issue(s) so delicately ignored in the article mainly due to SuperHornet service as the airwing tanker! More capability too for the airwing but we’ll ignore any capability discussion here. Predictably of course the mitigating idea to re-use the S-3 was “crushed and buried” and as a result , today 2018, as then, the only “real alternative” is to buy more SuperHornets! You can’t make this “Stuff” up… Money alone won’t solve the issues but being smart will. No smart in sight though.

    Talk about carrier Naval Aviation running in place…Oh yeah did I tell you we have the MQ-25 Stingray to mitigate these issues coming in 2020, no, I mean 2026….LOL (cynically)

  • omegatalon

    If what US Air Force and Marine top generals say are accurate about how GEN 5 fighters like the F-35 can tear through jets like the F/A-18 Super Hornet because they look like small houses on radar in Red Flag engagements, is this a waste of time and money.