Mark Collins – How Long Will the F/A-18E/F Line Growl On? Part 2 (with RCAF implications)

Further to this post and “Comments”, both US defense secretary Ash Carter and the US Navy want to keep the production line open some while longer; one is pretty sure Congress will go along given its previous authorization of some of the aircraft that were not even formally requested by the administration.  So it looks as if the Super Hornet will be available for any RCAF new fighter competition (and note how long it should be serving with the USN):

US Navy boosts F-35C and F/A-18 buy in new budget plan

The US Navy says maintaining Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet [more here] production in St Louis is “vital” for overcoming a strike-fighter shortfall caused by delays in fielding the Lockheed Martin F-35C.

The navy says its legacy Hornet fleet is aging out faster than it can be replaced through overuse in lengthy campaigns in the Middle East. Now, it is three squadrons or about 35 aircraft short of its fleet requirement, and there aren’t enough aircraft available for training and to maintain pilot proficiency. Similar problems are faced by the US Marine Corps as its Hornets and AV-8B Harrier IIs wear down.

Congress funded five Super Hornets and seven EA-18G Growlers in the fiscal year 2016 defence budget, throwing a much-needed lifeline to Boeing’s production facility.

Today, navy air warfare division chief Rear Adm Michael Manazir tells a congressional hearing on naval strike fighters that the service needs another “16 Super Hornets or so” on top of an increase in F-35C procurement to fill the remaining gap.

On 3 February, during a tour of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California, US defence secretary Ashton Carter confirmed the navy will request more F-35s and F/A-18s in next week’s budget submission than previously planned. It will reportedly seek 10 more F-35Cs and 16 more F/A-18s over the next five years, as well as more F-35Bs for the marines.

Manazir calls the Super Hornet a “vastly capable” compliment to the stealthy F-35C and through life-extensions it will continue to operate well into the 2030s.

“The predominance in numbers until the mid-’30s is going to be in Super Hornets [emphasis added],” he says. “The complimentary capability of those Super Hornets along with the F-35C gives us our striking power and reach off the aircraft carrier.”

“We’re accelerating that buy and we’re also accelerating or enhancing our buy of F/A-18s,” Carter says.

So it looks also like the Super Hornet will be perfectly interoperable with F-35s.  Very relevant:

US Navy: Slow F-35C Arrival=Super Hornet Life Extension

Boeing Offers New, Rebuilt, Upgraded Super Hornets To U.S. Navy

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


18 thoughts on “Mark Collins – How Long Will the F/A-18E/F Line Growl On? Part 2 (with RCAF implications)”

  1. More on extending Super Hornet service lives (and legacy Hornets):

    “US Navy plans SLEP for Super Hornet fleet

    The US Navy intends to launch a service life extension programme (SLEP) for its fleet of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet combat aircraft, a notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) website reveals.

    The notice, which was originally published by the The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on 19 January and updated on 1 February, is for Boeing to undertake a SLEP of the F/A-18E/F aft fuselage to extend the life of the aircraft upwards from the current 6,000 hours.

    NAVAIR revealed no details pertaining to the number of aircraft involved, the extent of the increase in the service life of the aircraft, timelines, or contract values. Neither did the notification say whether the effort would be extended to international operators, which are currently limited to Australia but expected to include Kuwait shortly.

    The US Navy fields approximately 550 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, the first of which entered service in the late 1990s. The earliest aircraft to be delivered are expected to reach the end of their current 6,000-hour service lives in about 2017, which is two years ahead of the planned declaration of initial operating capability for the carrier variant Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft.

    Delays to the F-35C have already prompted the US Navy to execute a SLEP for 150 of its more than 600 legacy F/A-18 Hornet fleet (including US Marine Corps [USMC] assets)…”

    Mark Collins

  2. US Navy department budget plans, note Super Hornets:

    The overall number of manned and unmanned aircraft planned to be purchased for the Navy and Marine Corps in 2017 remains at 94. The most significant aviation plan change is the insertion of 14 F/A-18 Super Hornets planned for 2018, a move directed by Carter that reverses an earlier Navy decision to end procurement of the Boeing-built aircraft.

    Buys of the F-35C carrier versions of the Joint Strike Fighter show no overall changes until 2020, when the planned purchase of 12 aircraft jumps to 18, with 24 forecast for 2021. A total of 64 F-35Cs are planned through the FYDP. Buys of the F-35B Marine Corps variant rise by two aircraft in 2017 to 16, but remain as planned in later years, with a total of 97 through 2021…”

    Mark Collins

  3. More Super Hornets for USN in FY 2017?

    “The US Navy is planning to request 12 more F/A-18 Super Hornets than the two it was allocated in the president’s 2017 defense budget, according to a House lawmaker.

    Citing overtaxed naval aviation assets, Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., asked the House Armed Services Committee to consider adding the aircraft through the 2017 defense policy bill expected to be drafted over the coming weeks. The chief of naval operations, Wagner said, will place the 12 aircraft on the service’s unfunded requirement list…”

    Mark Collins

  4. How much would upgrades add to Super Hornet cost as F-35A’s comes down over next few years?:

    “Boeing resumes Advanced Super Hornet push as US Navy considers fleet size

    Boeing Defense has “matured its thinking” about the Advanced Super Hornet concept that it launched in 2013 and flight tested, revealing a scaled-back configuration this week with fewer stealth features and perhaps a greater chance of being picked up by the US Navy.

    The new design, which would be mostly common between Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler warplanes, is a mix of new capabilities and upgrades like the centreline fuel tank-mounted infrared search and track (IRST21) sensor, integrated defensive electronic countermeasures (IDECM) Block IV, and next-generation jammer that are already being fielded as programmes of records.

    Upgrades that have not yet been adopted by the Pentagon include an active electronically scanned array radar (AESA), conformal fuel tanks and an open architecture cockpit with a 48cm (19in) wide-area display…”

    Mark Collins

  5. Looks like more Super Hornets for USN:

    “Key provisions in the $602 billion House defense policy bill

    Here’s a look at several key provisions in the Republican-led House defense appropriation and policy bill:

    The bill rejects the Pentagon’s proposal to cut one of the Navy’s 10 carrier air wings. It also includes 11 additional F–35 stealth fighter jets, which cost more than $100 million each, 14 F/A–18 fighters…”

    Mark Collins

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