• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

Air Force urged to consider Navy F-18s

Triton

Donald McKelvy
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2009
Messages
9,719
Reaction score
680
Website
deeptowild.blogspot.com
The August 6, 2009 issue of CongressDaily has a story titled "Air Force urged to consider Navy F-18s" by Megan Scully. I don't know how influential this publication is for lawmakers and opinion leaders in Washington DC. This article has been discussed on other defense and aviation forums.

NOTE: Despite the article's provocative title, lawmakers are urging the Air Force to consider all "generation 4.5" aircraft and not just the F-18 specifically. Please read the article in its entirety before commenting.

It appears that 80 percent of Air Force/Air National Guard F-16s currently performing Air Sovereignty Alert missions will retire before their replacements are ready.

According to a Government Accountability Office report released this year, the Air Force will not have viable aircraft after fiscal 2015 at some of its 18 ASA sites in the United States -- 16 of which are run by the Guard. By 2032, two sites will still not have viable aircraft for the mission

Sen. Christopher (Kit) Bond, R-Mo., co-chairman of the Senate National Guard Caucus, and other lawmakers are pushing the Department of Defense and Air Force to consider purchasing "4.5 generation" fighters for ASA. These individuals are encouraging that all "4.5 generation" solutions be considered including the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The House of Representatives has passed a fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill that includes an amendment by Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., requiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates to review buying advanced F-15s, F-16s and F-18s for the Air National Guard.

"To me, it's a very critical problem that needs immediate attention in order to avert a real catastrophe in eight to 10 years," LoBiondo said.

The article then states that the Air Force is not interested in purchasing new "4.5 generation" generation fighters because of the F-22 and F-35 programs.

Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, chief of the Air Guard, said last week he is "platform agnostic," but mentioned the F-18 -- along with the F-15 and F-16 -- as a possible solution, especially if the F-35 program falls behind schedule.

But the defense official expects the Air Force to reject any efforts to buy Super Hornets -- or any other older fighters. "The Air Force won't do it willingly, more than likely, because it doesn't meet their strategy," he said.

http://www.govexec.com/story_page.cfm?articleid=43334&dcn=todaysnews

Is it possible that lawmakers are going to twist the Air Force's arm to buy new "4.5 generation fighters" for ASA? Can the F-16s scheduled for retirement have their lives extended so their F-35 replacements can be manufactured?
 

Lampshade111

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Oct 5, 2008
Messages
151
Reaction score
4
It is rather unfortunate but in the current political and economic setting I imagine the USAF will be forced to take such a measure.

I doubt the Super Hornet is the right choice due to all of the new training and etc. such an aircraft would involve. Upgraded F-15E variants are certainly capable but they aren't that much cheaper than a 5th generation fighter.

On another forum somebody proposed resurrecting the F-16XL to help replace aging ANG F-16s. Good idea, or bound to end in disaster?
 

sferrin

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2011
Messages
13,678
Reaction score
1,730
I'd suggest they resist the idea with their dying breath. Once the "Super" Hornet entered USAF service you can say "buh-bye" to the F-35.
 

Abraham Gubler

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
3,555
Reaction score
205
sferrin said:
I'd suggest they resist the idea with their dying breath. Once the "Super" Hornet entered USAF service you can say "buh-bye" to the F-35.

Just like the US Navy?

All this is based on the GAO's call that after 2015 the F-16 won't be 'viable'... Somehow I can't imagine that USAF would withdraw hundreds of aircraft from service because the warranty is up and just when their replacement is under production in volume. If they can't manage a life extension for a few years then they can always up the rate of F-35 production rather than buy into an entire new platform.

Of course if there is a fighter crunch the real ANG alternative is the 'light' fighter (aka AT-6B).
 

Triton

Donald McKelvy
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2009
Messages
9,719
Reaction score
680
Website
deeptowild.blogspot.com
Are the Air National Guard and Air Force aircraft being used for Air Sovereignty Alert missions in that bad of shape that they require forced retired? It just doesn't make sense to me to have to buy new F-15, F-16, or F-18 aircraft because a new F-35 won't be available when an ASA aircraft is scheduled to retire. Is this a political much ado about nothing? If Lockheed Martin cannot manufacture F-35s quickly enough to meet ANG and Air Force demand, is it possible to license it to Boeing?
 

Abraham Gubler

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
3,555
Reaction score
205
Triton said:
If Lockheed Martin cannot manufacture F-35s quickly enough to meet ANG and Air Force demand, is it possible to license it to Boeing?

It’s not the 1940-50s anymore where aircraft are just bashed into shape aluminium so you can send over the drawings, a sample copy and some engineers and someone else can build them. So you can't 'license' something like the F-35 and all its components and all its integration work to someone else to have them build it without going through the years and billions required to set up the existing production line.

From memory the full rate of the F-35 production line is about 150-200 a year. They could probably go a lot higher if needed but would need years of lead time and of course the cash.

The problem with F-35 production numbers is that USAF is only one of the customers and most of the aircraft coming down the line are spoken for. And while they may need 200 a year from 2015-2020 they haven't been budgeted for that, with their production drawn out into the 2030s at around 100 a year (again from memory).

So the idea from GAO - I presume - is that new F-35s won't be displacing the F-15/F-16 fleet enough to provide USAF/ANG with enough airworthy aircraft to meet their ASA mission rate. So the idea is USAF should buy some new F/A-18E/Fs in the next 5-10 years to keep enough airworthy aircraft in the overall fleet.

Its not such a bad idea expect for the cost of it. The Block II F/A-18E/F would be much better than existing USAF F-15s and F-16s in current operational missions thanks to its JAST sensor suite and systems integration. The pro-F-22 crowd would bust a gasket about loss of air superiority to 'FRANKEN-FLANKERs' but that's all just wasted noise these days.
 

sferrin

ACCESS: USAP
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2011
Messages
13,678
Reaction score
1,730
Abraham Gubler said:
sferrin said:
I'd suggest they resist the idea with their dying breath. Once the "Super" Hornet entered USAF service you can say "buh-bye" to the F-35.

Just like the US Navy?

How many F-35s does the USN have on it's flight decks? That's right- none. If both the USAF and USN are both using "Super" Hornets there will be the overwhelming temptation on the part of the politicians to go with an all F/A-18E/F force in the name of saving dollars.
 

Abraham Gubler

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
3,555
Reaction score
205
sferrin said:
How many F-35s does the USN have on it's flight decks? That's right- none.

Yep that's because we live in a universe with a fourth dimension, commonly referred to as time. If the USAF was to order Super Hornets today, as per the GAO recommendation, thanks to the nature of this universe those fighter would not materialise instantaneously. It would take at least 3-5 years for them to be built, delivered and USAF squadrons brought to an operational standard with the new fighter.

This, as you have pointed out, is the same process but with longer lead times for the F-35C’s introduction (because it is not as far down its chorological timeline as the Super Hornet) into the US Navy’s fleet. While there is none today this state won’t last forever.

sferrin said:
If both the USAF and USN are both using "Super" Hornets there will be the overwhelming temptation on the part of the politicians to go with an all F/A-18E/F force in the name of saving dollars.

I always thought it was the role of American politicians to spend money not save it? I think this is an opinion not strongly grounded in the demonstrated actions and intentions of the US Government. If USAF was to buy Super Hornets as a gap filler, much like the RAAF, then this doesn’t mean the F-35 project would keel over and die. The F-35 is a lot more than just new airworthy airframes for the operators. If it was then we would all just be buying F-16Ks and F/A-18Hs.
 

Triton

Donald McKelvy
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2009
Messages
9,719
Reaction score
680
Website
deeptowild.blogspot.com
Abraham Gubler said:
Its not such a bad idea expect for the cost of it. The Block II F/A-18E/F would be much better than existing USAF F-15s and F-16s in current operational missions thanks to its JAST sensor suite and systems integration. The pro-F-22 crowd would bust a gasket about loss of air superiority to 'FRANKEN-FLANKERs' but that's all just wasted noise these days.

Very interesting. Do you also believe that the Air Force may be prejudiced against the F/A-18E/F since the aircraft is a navalized descendant of the Northrop YF-17 Cobra, an aircraft that they rejected? Although this may be changing with joint aviation projects, such as the F-35 Lightnin II, and the F-4 Phantom II, the conventional wisom is that the Air Force doesn't buy Navy aircraft.
 

Abraham Gubler

ACCESS: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2008
Messages
3,555
Reaction score
205
Triton said:
Do you also believe that the Air Force may be prejudiced against the F/A-18E/F since the aircraft is a navalized descendant of the Northrop YF-17 Cobra, an aircraft that they rejected? Although this may be changing with joint aviation projects and the F-4 Phantom II, the conventional wisom is that the Air Force doesn't Navy aircraft.

I don't think the air force would care about the F/A-18s origins in the YF-17 but they would certainly care about the Navy painted on the sides. The F-110 (aka F-4) was very much an aberation. Since the retirement of McNamara in 1968, who forced USAF into the F-4 and A-7 between 1962-65, USAF has adopted no Navy combat planes. No A-6, no F-14, no AV-8, no F/A-18, no A-12. Even when the Navy had the only game in town - the EA-6B and the EA-18G - USAF has done everything they can to avoid buying them.

Anyway I think this case is a bit of a storm in the teacup. Despite 911 the ASA mission is not something USAF seems keen on spending billions to equip. If push comes to shove then the F-16 is still in production, the AT-6B (light fighter) and even the T-38 will be inline for the ASA gap fill before the Super Hornet.
 

Lampshade111

ACCESS: Confidential
Joined
Oct 5, 2008
Messages
151
Reaction score
4
Personally I think the Super Hornet idea is the worst of the options considering all of the maintenance, training, such an additional type would bring to the USAF. The F-16E/F seems the most likely option in my opinion, although I imagine Boeing will be advertising their F-15SE quite a bit more now.

I don't want to reopen this can of worms, but you think this alone would be enough of a reason to continue F-22 production into the foreseeable future. Aircraft in desperate need of replacement (partially older F-15s) could be phased out earlier, meaning timing is less critical for the F-35s to start being delivered to the USAF in large numbers. Of course that would involve a government with some sort of common sense.

Personally I rather like the Super Hornet, although I too would have loved to have seen the Super Tomcat 21, NATF, or A/F-X flying. Yet I find it unusual that one of the most widely criticized/attacked aircraft in the last 20 years (not among it's pilots and the guys maintaining it however) is now being looked at for USAF service.
 

F-14D

I really did change my personal text
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 4, 2007
Messages
1,780
Reaction score
143
First, a reality check.

By one of those inexplicable Amazing Coincidences, the Senator pushing this happens to be from the state where these F/A-18s would be built. Of course, this has nothing to do with his position.

The idea is bad for a whole number of reasons. One is that it would be incredibly expensive to introduce into USAF an aircraft for which there is no USAF logistical base, familiarity, procurement infrastructure, uses different systems, engines, avionics, etc., shares virtually no commonality with USAF and so on. While this is true of any new aircraft, normally a new aircraft brings a major leap in capability that justifies going through all that.

This would not be the case here. Although popular with those who are not aware of what the alternatives were to it, and although it is not a bad aircraft, frankly, the E/F is not all that impressive. Going into a lot of detail on why that is is outside the scope of this thread. Suffice it to say it wouldn't be worth the cost. If an interim aircraft is to be bought to overcome the shortfalls, USAF would be far better served to acquire one of the advanced F-16 versions being exported, or better yet, the F-15SG, which is far more capable than the Super Bug and has a lot more in common with the rest of USAF. Also, if production rates were ramped up to an economical level, comparable to E/F rates, I'd wager it wouldn't cost all that much, if any, more.

One alternative that seems to never occur to the powers that be, is for what it would cost to deliver and maintain these interim, aircraft, if you just threw that same amount of money at the F-35, it could be here soon enough that you wouldn't need the interim aircraft.

Abraham: I must agree with sferrin, if both services had the Hornet E/F, what he opines is exactly what would happen. One of the attractions of the F-35 to Washington at present is that it is far enough off that it can be championed and you can look tough on defense without actually having to come up with the major portions of the bucks right now. If the Super Bug was in both services, that definitely would be used as an excuse to push the next generation off further to the right. You are so right, though, about USAF using Navy aircraft. Heck! they wouldn't even have used AIM-7 if it didn't come with the F-4!

Lampshade, the F-16XL (which would have been the F-16E) was stillborn because USAF found it could get more capability for less cost with the F-15E. It would be the same today: cost too much to develop when there are already aircraft (advanced F-15s) that can do the job.

Triton, The issue is not so much as to whether Lockheed can build them fast enough as much as it is how much are we willing to pay to get it here and how much are we willing to pay to produce them in any given year. A second production line at Boeing was considered after the X-35 won the competition but it was quickly shown that that was uneconomical, and in any case until development is complete, a second production line is not going to be stood up anyway.
 

Just call me Ray

ACCESS: Top Secret
Joined
Aug 26, 2007
Messages
674
Reaction score
12
I imagine that if it really comes down to it, the USAF will either start pulling 15s/16s from the desert or simply downsize the ASA mission to do with what they have (ok, really downsize, but as someone already pointed out the mission isn't exactly a high priority to begin with)
 
Top