What if Cheney never became SecDef and VP? what would change?

helmutkohl

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1.
Dick Cheney is known to have been involved directly or indirectly in the decision making for major US weapon systems.. such as the F-14, F-22, etc.

However when he became Sec of Def, he was not HW Bush's first choice, it was some other guy.
Lets say in this alternate history, Cheney never became Sec of Def (it went to Bush's first choice instead).. and because of that, he didn't become VP either.

Would it change any major weapons acquisitions in the US? the world?

2.
On a related note, around the same time is when the Super Hornet was developed and proposed.
What if McD/Boeing, instead of offering basically a new aircraft (the Super Hornet looks like the Hornet but is essentially a new aircraft as its much larger..)
they offered basically an extremely upgraded Regular Hornet, in the same way F-16C went to F-16E

The airframe is roughly the same.. but it adds conformal fuel tanks to address the range issue, new radar, possibly new F414 engines?

Would this still be appealing to the US? world?
 

isayyo2

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Cheney was actually Bush’s second nomination, the first was veteran Senator John Tower (just learned this). More F-14Ds and maybe A-6Fs are a potential outcome, though Grumman was in many peoples crosshairs in the late 80s. Cheney also played a big role in Desert Shield/Storm, could Tower fill the same role?

For the second question, I’m not sure the Hornet could take the changes and retain its design. Look at the Hornet 2000 studies. Would adding CFTs and new electrics force the landing gear to be redesigned from weight gain? Range will always be an issue, and the Super Hornet still struggles. The Hornet is an impressive plane, it’s APG-73 set was top of the line and could nearly do it it all. New A-6s and especially KA-6s, would make a well rounded air group.

Supporting Grumman could help secure Long Island for the Republicans in 92? While historically “Red” the residents felt betrayed over Grummans rapid destruction in Peace Dividend.
 
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Archibald

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Archibald

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Cheney was actually Bush’s second nomination, the first was veteran Senator John Tower (just learned this). More F-14Ds and maybe A-6Fs are a potential outcome, though Grumman was in many peoples crosshairs in the late 80s. Cheney also played a big role in Desert Shield/Storm, could Tower fill the same role?

For the second question, I’m not sure the Hornet could take the changes and retain its design. Look at the Hornet 2000 studies. Would adding CFTs and new electrics force the landing gear to be redesigned from weight gain? Range will always be an issue, and the Super Hornet still struggles. The Hornet is an impressive plane, it’s APG-73 set was top of the line and could nearly do it it all. New A-6s and especially KA-6s, would make a well rounded air group.

Supporting Grumman could help secure Long Island for the Republicans in 92? While historically “Red” the residents felt betrayed over Grummans rapid destruction in Peace Dividend.

-A-6F and one of the "Super Tomcat" variants would be cool (F-14D with the new engines was pretty good, but the others, more advanced Tomcats were tempting... and there were many others: Tomcat 21, ASF, whatever).

-A-12 Flying Dorito ? No, thanks. That was a disaster from day one. Ditto for the NATF: a VG naval F-22, what could possibly go wrong ?
Look, a new F-111B, except stealth !


-Problem was the engrained Hornet lobby... F-18 C/D wasn't enough for them, "Super Hornet" HAD to happen, one way or another.

-And then of course the JAST / JSF / F-35 steamroller is coming, right from 1993 if not even earlier.

Best scenario for the USN would be to secure A-6F and F-14D with the respective Hornet and JSF lobbies destroying each others...

At some point or another stealth is bound to happen and land on carrier decks.
Even if the USN dodge F-117N, A-12 and NATF (three bad ideas, really) sooner or later "naval stealth" will return and must happen.

So instead of "heavy attack" (F-117N & Dorito) or "big fighter" (NATF) then why not dump it on the Hornet lobby (naval LWF multirole) just to derail them ?

"Oh sure, we want stealth on our carrier decks, but it is so hard (NATF, cough, A-12, cough cough, peace dividends, cough cough cough) - we must start modestly.
So how about a stealth F-18C/D replacement - say, by the early 2000's" ?

Boom - Superbug and F-35 "heresies", neutralized with a single blow. Hail A-6D and F-14D in the meantime.

One can dream, no ?
 
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isayyo2

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-A-6F and one of the "Super Tomcat" variants would be cool (F-14D with the new engines was pretty good, but the others, more advanced Tomcats were tempting... and there were many others: Tomcat 21, ASF, whatever).
One can dream, no ?
Oh I'm dreaming alright.

What's wild to me, is that the F-14D did not enter service until March 1990 and production lasted just one year. Interestingly enough is that it seems like Cheney had his crosshairs on the D model since he was sworn in as SecDef and wanted new built D models cancelled with more funding for the B-2 in the FY90 Budget. After reading the linked report it seems lucky we got any new-built D models at all, with Grumman fighting for its life. Originally, 127 new built D models were ordered and 400 A/B models were to be upgraded in FY87, a step back from the FY84 plan of 304 new F-14Ds. When the VF squadrons were reduced from 12 to 10 planes, the need for new F-14Ds became less clear and the Senate called for ending F-14 production as a deficit reduction measure; the House fought hard to retain 12 new D models for FY90 and 91. The report also notes a significant shortfall in EA-6 and F-14 production in the late 90s if production ended.

Here's another interesting bit from the Jan-Feb 86 Naval Aviations Journal: The F-14D will begin procuring in 1988. So what happened? Well, there were cost overruns between 86 and 88 according to the New York Times some $120 million or more, which Grumman split with the Navy and delayed the F-14D until 1990. Knowing that now, it's easier to understand why the Senate and SecDef Cheney had their eyes on Grumman overall, they were underperforming to deliver an aircraft that was not so incredibly revolutionary over the existing F-14B model. Had the F-14D been and F-15E equivalent from the start, maybe things would have been different. Would SecDef Tower being any kinder to Grumman? Maybe. Could the F-14D enter service any earlier, that also seems unlikely.

With hindsight, an F-14D Quickstrike - A-6F - F/A-18C - S-3B Carrier Airwing would be well equipped to deal with any challenges until 2010 or so. Even if the F-14D and A-6F entered service before 1990, Tomahawk would still steal the show in Desert Storm. Maybe have the Navy put a pause on stealth and double down on Tomahawk in the 80s? Convert some 41 for Freedom Boomers into SSGNs.

Does anyone know how much, if any, a performance boast the F404 gave the A-6F? Or was the engine change done in the interest of commonality, and reducing maintenance man hours?
 

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Does anyone know how much, if any, a performance boast the F404 gave the A-6F? Or was the engine change done in the interest of commonality, and reducing maintenance man hours?
Big range boost. The F404-GE-402 has a SFC of .81lbs/hr at military thrust. That is the same SFC as the J52-P-8B at normal full thrust. In raw terms, an F404 equipped A-6 would burn about 1,800 pounds per hour more at military thrust than one equipped with J52s, but the F404s are giving you a total of 22,000 pounds of thrust vs 18,600 pounds for the J52. So you'd get better takeoff performance, a bigger launch envelope off of a carrier, more room for error in a cat launch (with more thrust you can deal with an engine out easier and maybe a cold cat if you're launching clean), you can probably bring back more to the ship with F404s. And of course, more range. Your SFC at cruise is likely to be between 5-10% lower than the J52, so increase your range or loiter time by that.
 

isayyo2

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Thanks @SSgtC as always.

Finding first hand sources on the A-6F has been difficult for me. It seems like the F-14D and A-6F were both ordered in 1984 and encountered some troubled developments with cost overruns that caused further political notoriety. The A-6F had been canceled before the full prototype even flew; in part due to budget and the then secretive A-12. The F-14D barely survived the axe and was produced side by side the F-14A+ (later F-14B). 70 B and 55 D models were procured and the F-14A soldiered on into the early 2000s (Joe Baugher).

That being said, were the Marines interested by the A-6F at all? They seemed pretty enamored by the Night Attack F/A-18D's.
 

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That being said, were the Marines interested by the A-6F at all? They seemed pretty enamored by the Night Attack F/A-18D's.
Not that I'm aware of. The Marines really wanted a common aircraft for all their conventional VMF and VMA squadrons. As the smallest of the 4 main services, with the smallest budget as well, that was a huge cost savings for the Corps. Being able to ditch the multiple aircraft types for just F/A-18s was huge for them.
 

isayyo2

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That being said, were the Marines interested by the A-6F at all? They seemed pretty enamored by the Night Attack F/A-18D's.
Not that I'm aware of. The Marines really wanted a common aircraft for all their conventional VMF and VMA squadrons. As the smallest of the 4 main services, with the smallest budget as well, that was a huge cost savings for the Corps. Being able to ditch the multiple aircraft types for just F/A-18s was huge for them.
Yep, those were my thoughts as well!
 

helmutkohl

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I am surprised the F404 can fit in the A-6.. my first thought was that its diameter and length was too large
 

F-14D

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Some notes.

By the '80s the A-6 was wearing out, especially the wings. Although a wing strengthening program wasps feasible, some favored an upgrade to the aircraft as a hedge against problems with the high tech, stealthy Advanced Tactical Aircraft program started in 1983, which became the A-12. The A-12, BTW, was never a "black" program. Secretary of the Navy, John Warner, was a strong proponent of this. Among other improvements it would have new advanced avionics, use a non-afterburning version of the F404, have two more store stations and be capable of using AIM-9 & 120. Because of the increased demand for F404s, Navy decided to have a second source to produce the engine. They spent the money to provide Pratt with the information and resources needed to set up a production line to build F404s that were to be identical to the ones coming of the GE line, but it turned out Pratt was never able to do this. Whenever there's any program, there are always other programs that covet its money. When SECNAV Warner left,the A-6F lost its most powerful backer, and other fiefdoms went after its money. One especially powerful argument used was that the A-6F would be entering service not that much earlier than the expected date for the A-12, and so would bee duplicative and therefore a perceived waste of money. The A-6F was canceled and so was the unsuccessful attempt to set up a 2nd F404 line. Interesting footnote:. both F-14D Quickstrike and F/A-18E/F were mooted as interim aircraft to bridge the strike gap between the loss of A-6 and the arrival of the definitive A-X, the program that replaced the A-12.


I couldn't enlarge the New York Times page enough to read it, but if that's what it said, they got it wrong again. First, if you start procuring in 1988, it'll be two to three years before production aircraft reach the Fleet, the interim being testing time and the time it takes to actually build the things. F-14D arrived in the Fleet in 1991. The $120 million in the late '80s was, I believe, the agreement regarding claims and counter-claims that had been going around since the initial development in the 197os. The F-14D itself was delivered on budget and on the Navy's schedule.

The opinion that the F-14D wasn't that much of an improvement over the F-14B is not supportable. The F-14D was a massive improvement. The F-14B is basically an F-14A with some updates, the glove vanes sealed and, of course the magnificent F110 engines. That's why it was initially designated the F-14A+. The F-14D had the F-110s, no glove vanes. multiple maintainability and reliability improvements including redoing the troublesome wiring system and a Fatigue/Engine monitoring system distributed throughout the aircraft. It had a higher allowable gross weight In addition it had a (for the time) glass cockpit with programmable displays. It had digital avionics including new mission computers, and a distributed processing architecture. It had JTIDS, digital navigation, including a highly reliable INS (GPS wasn't that big a thing in those days). It had an advanced Radar Warning Reciver and carried internally the ALQ-165 by far the most capable tactical jammer in the world. It carried internally the AN/AAS-42 IRST, by far the best in the world at the time, derivatives of which are starting to be carried in external tanks/pods on the Super Hornet and F-15s. All F-14Ds were TARPS capable from the outset. It had an Onboard Oxygen Generation system and used new NACES seats. By far the biggest capability boost was given by the new APG-71 radar/fire control. Essentially this consisted of an air-to-air enhanced version of the APG-70 just coming into service in the Strike Eagle coupled with the larger antenna and more powerful transmitted of the AWG-9. Sensor fusion was part of the package, but when Cheney killed the plane I believe this was never developed. Similarly, work didn't proceed on the planned APU.

Regarding Air To Ground capability, the Navy initially didn't put much emphasis on it for the D, so Grumman didn't exploit it. In the '90s. though, more and more weapons were being or were scheduled to be integrated in as the missions evolved. The proposed Quickstrike involved continuing the ongoing work to add more strike weapons and porting over the a/g software from the F-15E (remember APG-71 had a lot of common DNA with APG-70) , adding Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar and LANTIRN (which happened anyway) or similar sensor and a few cockpit changes taking advantage of the Tomcat's larger displays. Although a Quickstrike would cost about $2 million more than a Super Hornet at comparable production rates , it would cost far less to develop and be ready years sooner., and you would have a strike fighter superior to the F-15E but with less range/payload. It never would have matched the mmh/fh of the Super Bug, though, because the latter was using newer airframe technology.

If you had an F-14 Quickstrike and A-6F deck, you wouldn't need the F/A-18C, and IIRC, before Cheney stepped in the Classic Hornet was scheduled to go out of production in the '90s. Production was extended because you needed a "warm" line to make the Super Bug viable, just like you'd need a "warm" -14D line to make Quickstrike or Super Tomcat-21 viable, although in the latter case you could rebuild them from Ds. Arguably if Navy had asked for a Quickstrike D from the start you might not have needed the A-6F and the Navy could sail on from the A-12 debacle and developed the strike aircraft the Navy really needed the A (later A/F)-X.

But Cheney killed that; he really didn't like Grumman and the F-14. Grumman's own arrogance didn't help.
 

F-14D

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Quick note for Archibald:

Tomcat 21 was a response to a Navy inquiry as to how much more capability you could get as an NATF alternative with a development budget constrained to $1 billion. The Super Tomcat 21 variants were the same question but without the cap. It was found that with not that much more you could get a lot more. Grumman said that the "Supers" development budget would still be less than that of the Super Hornet. Essentially this would be because the Super Tomcats were derivatives of an existing aircraft deign , while the Super Hornet was actually a new plane that just looked like a previous plane. Grumman's ASF was the same thing.

The chronology was confusing. Although it would have entered service before them, the F-14 Quickstrike was actually conceived after the more advanced Super Tomcat 21s, because they were targeted more as an alternative to the NATF, the consideration of pulling out of that preceded the collapse of the A-12.

Oh, and the Hornet lobby was happy to say that the Super Bug is all the stealth "low observable" F/A-18C/D replacement the Navy needed
 
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isayyo2

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Ah F-14D has entered the thread, we truly are blessed with his wisdom!

@F-14D do you have any further insight into what caused delays with the F-14D and A-6F programs? It seems like avionics development/integration was the main culprit; also some squabbling with Grumman and the Navy...

Just double checking, a pure F-14D fleet would have had significant cost and maintenance savings over the existing A/B fleet?
 

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Quick note for Archibald:

Tomcat 21 was a response to a Navy inquiry as to how much more capability you could get as an NATF alternative with a development budget constrained to $1 billion. The Super Tomcat 21 variants were the same question but without the cap. It was found that with not that much more you could get a lot more. Grumman said that the "Supers" development budget would still be less than that of the Super Hornet. Essentially this would be because the Super Tomcats were derivatives of an existing aircraft deign , while the Super Hornet was actually a new plane that jut looked like a previous plane. Grumman's ASF was the same thing.

The chronology was confusing. Although it would have entered service before them, the F-14 Quickstrike was actually conceived after the more advanced Super Tomcat 21s, because they were targeted more as an alternative to the NATF, the consideration of pulling out of that preceded the collapse of the A-12.

Oh, and the Hornet lobby was happy to say that the Super Bug is all the stealth "low observable" F/A-18C/D replacement the Navy needed

So from all this, it seems a decently upgraded Tomcat could screw (altogether) A-6F, A-12, and NATF ? ensuing the "super fighter" and "heavy attack" roles ?
 

aim9xray

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Exactly, and that is what came to pass.

Look at F-14D capabilities that had been incrementally added by 2005 - working JTIDS/Link-16, ASPJ (back from the grave) ALR-67(Vx) EGI navigation, full air-to-ground weapons implementation + LGB (with self lase from LANTIRN), GGW (GPS-guided weapon) integration, ROVER, active PTID, APG-71 Medium PRF & SAR, a minimal latent AMRAAM capability, etc. That was at least Quickstrike functionality. Added laboriously, piece by piece.

And A-6F, A-12 and NATF? Dead. And the A-6E was sacrificed in the late 1990s to pay for the F-14A/B Upgrade effort, and the F-14D air-to-ground capabilities.
 

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Why so sad @Archibald? By the time the F-14D and F-14A/B Upgrade efforts were started, A-6F, A-12 and NATF were long dead, not having survived the end of the Cold War.

And during the Clinton drawdown, killing the A-6E was a very difficult decision.

It came down to the calculation that it was more productive to retire the Intruder and add precision air-to-ground capabilities to the Tomcat than to retire the Tomcat and add air superiority capability to the Intruder. Plus, with precision weapons, there was no longer a need for a dumb bomb truck.
 

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Cheney was actually Bush’s second nomination, the first was veteran Senator John Tower (just learned this). More F-14Ds and maybe A-6Fs are a potential outcome, though Grumman was in many peoples crosshairs in the late 80s. Cheney also played a big role in Desert Shield/Storm, could Tower fill the same role?

For the second question, I’m not sure the Hornet could take the changes and retain its design. Look at the Hornet 2000 studies. Would adding CFTs and new electrics force the landing gear to be redesigned from weight gain? Range will always be an issue, and the Super Hornet still struggles. The Hornet is an impressive plane, it’s APG-73 set was top of the line and could nearly do it it all. New A-6s and especially KA-6s, would make a well rounded air group.

Supporting Grumman could help secure Long Island for the Republicans in 92? While historically “Red” the residents felt betrayed over Grummans rapid destruction in Peace Dividend.

-A-6F and one of the "Super Tomcat" variants would be cool (F-14D with the new engines was pretty good, but the others, more advanced Tomcats were tempting... and there were many others: Tomcat 21, ASF, whatever).

-A-12 Flying Dorito ? No, thanks. That was a disaster from day one. Ditto for the NATF: a VG naval F-22, what could possibly go wrong ?
Look, a new F-111B, except stealth !


-Problem was the engrained Hornet lobby... F-18 C/D wasn't enough for them, "Super Hornet" HAD to happen, one way or another.

-And then of course the JAST / JSF / F-35 steamroller is coming, right from 1993 if not even earlier.

Best scenario for the USN would be to secure A-6F and F-14D with the respective Hornet and JSF lobbies destroying each others...

At some point or another stealth is bound to happen and land on carrier decks.
Even if the USN dodge F-117N, A-12 and NATF (three bad ideas, really) sooner or later "naval stealth" will return and must happen.

So instead of "heavy attack" (F-117N & Dorito) or "big fighter" (NATF) then why not dump it on the Hornet lobby (naval LWF multirole) just to derail them ?

"Oh sure, we want stealth on our carrier decks, but it is so hard (NATF, cough, A-12, cough cough, peace dividends, cough cough cough) - we must start modestly.
So how about a stealth F-18C/D replacement - say, by the early 2000's" ?

Boom - Superbug and F-35 "heresies", neutralized with a single blow. Hail A-6D and F-14D in the meantime.

One can dream, no ?
Archibald, I agree with all but I think an F-117N (example; A-12 systems good, A-12 structure/LO, failure) would have been an acceptable, interim LO attack platform for USN, F-117N was pretty mature and had radar. Tomcat 21 and A-6F would have been great. Re-designed F-32 could have been second coming of A-7 as a modern replacement for USN as well.
 

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Any chance that during the ATA program someone takes a look and says "Wait a minute, Northrop is right, there is no way they Navy can get what they want at the cost they want." So everything gets reexamined and maybe Northrop gets the contract. It's still at risk of being cancelled due to the end of Cold War and the beginning of a lot of naivety but it might work out.

So maybe you get a working A-12 and full production of F-14D (hopefully followed by an F-14E with most of the ST-21 stuff) but then what? There are still some F/A-18s to replace so I'd guess the whole "lets add a CATOBAR variant to CALF" idea gets traction and personally I think that would be good to avoid.
 

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Any chance that during the ATA program someone takes a look and says "Wait a minute, Northrop is right, there is no way they Navy can get what they want at the cost they want." So everything gets reexamined and maybe Northrop gets the contract. It's still at risk of being cancelled due to the end of Cold War and the beginning of a lot of naivety but it might work out.

So maybe you get a working A-12 and full production of F-14D (hopefully followed by an F-14E with most of the ST-21 stuff) but then what? There are still some F/A-18s to replace so I'd guess the whole "lets add a CATOBAR variant to CALF" idea gets traction and personally I think that would be good to avoid.
The initial plan was A-12 and F-14D, with NATF eventually replacing the D. Without Cheney and his anti-Grumman bias, ST-21 and AST-21 would be fallbacks for the failure of the A-12 and NATF programs. There were no plans to replace the F-18, the Navy had wanted an all high-end no low-end air wing since the all F-14 and A-6 wing they wanted in the 70s, which given they have a limited number of airfields (carriers) makes sense. The Marines might operate their A/STOVL off Navy carriers along with their A-12s, but probably only to see if it could be done rather than as a matter of routine.

With regards to the A-12, Northrop (working with Vought and Grumman, so another reason Cheney not being there would help) knew it couldn't meet the mandated price point for the A-12, but they had a design that would have worked. GD had a design that didn't work, but thought they could meet the price point. The Navy and Northrop believed Congress wouldn't go for the cost of the Northrop design (which is why Northrop made their final proposal non-compliant, so they wouldn't lose money if they won) so the USN gambled on GD/MD being able to modify their design so it would work while staying inside the cost limits. After all, a chance at something is better than nothing. Instead they wound up with worse than nothing, meaning wasted time, money, and reputation on a design that was never going to work.

The Navy would have been better off declaring Northop the winner and going to Congress and saying 'this will work, but it will be much more expensive' hoping they might get a small order that could perhaps be expanded if the program was successful. If Congress doesn't go for it, or the design doesn't work out, the fall back should be the Super-Tomcat designs until A/FX can be developed. And since A/FX is a high end design with greater range, payload and performance than the F-35C, it should never have been rolled into JAST, which also should have remained separate MRF and A/STOVL programs, rather than everyone getting a variation of A/STOVL which only fully meets the needs of the Marines and anyone with STOVL carriers.
 
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Kat Tsun

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-A-6F and one of the "Super Tomcat" variants would be cool (F-14D with the new engines was pretty good, but the others, more advanced Tomcats were tempting... and there were many others: Tomcat 21, ASF, whatever).
One can dream, no ?

With hindsight, an F-14D Quickstrike - A-6F - F/A-18C - S-3B Carrier Airwing would be well equipped to deal with any challenges until 2010 or so.

What do you mean? It's the opposite I think?

At least Cheney understood that stealth aircraft were the future, which was something of an open question before Desert Storm I guess. A fairly forward thinking SecDef who hated a bunch of fairly lame programs (various Super Duper Tomcats, NATF, A-12 and V-22, to name a few) and questionable ones (F-14D, Seawolf) in favor of ones that made a bit more sense (all Hornet-airwing vs. mixed wing) that at the end of the day helped ease the logistics burden the USN faces today.

If the Navy in 201X can barely keep Super Hornet flying off the carriers, who knows how many CVWs would be grounded with as diverse an air wing as F-14D/A-6F/F-18C/S-3B, and all the spare parts they would need to stockpile when the manufacturers shut down production in the 2010's for all of these and F-35C is still hung up.

Naturally since the Super Hornet is still in production, unlike at least one of those things (the F-18C was killed recently and the Marines are maaaad), they were able to fix the little parts shortage hiccup that grounded half the fleet a couple years ago. They probably wouldn't be able to do that if they had to keep A-6/F-14/S-3 in production, since at least one of those would die to feed the JSF, and they would all probably suffer from some parts hiccups, grounding entire CVWs for a lot longer than a year or two it took the Navy to claw back the >80% mission readiness rate of its air fleet.

With hindsight, F-18E/F was the optimal choice of a bunch of bad ones, as it actually got built and nothing showed up between 1990 and 2020 to challenge it, as no USN carrier has suffered from air attack. Nothing today exists to challenge it, either militarily or economically. The latter is especially important because a single aircraft fighter wing, even a mediocre fighter, is better than four or five super optimal aircraft that don't work.

Imagine if the USN had to fight ISIS with a fleet of crusty old A-6Fs or F-14Ds that hadn't been upgraded since the early 2000s and shut down their production lines after we'd left Iraq or something, instead of brand-new F-18Es that were still being built.
 
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F-14D

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Just double checking, a pure F-14D fleet would have had significant cost and maintenance savings over the existing A/B fleet?
Massively. For example, during the F-14Ds early years when parts and maintenance personnel were easy to get, mmh/fh was 17 and trending downward. Candor requires
Ah F-14D has entered the thread, we truly are blessed with his wisdom!
Wisdom?? Me?? No pressure there, eh?
 

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F-14D

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@F-14D do you have any further insight into what caused delays with the F-14D and A-6F programs? It seems like avionics development/integration was the main culprit; also some squabbling with Grumman and the Navy...

Just double checking, a pure F-14D fleet would have had significant cost and maintenance savings over the existing A/B fleet?
AFAIK, other than Gov't directed delays, on the A-6F the only delay might have occurred later after the IOC date due to Pratt's inability to duplicate the F404 . On the F-14D, there was a contract award delay in 1986 regarding obtaining the Assistant Secretary of the Navy's approval to sign the definitized contract. Other than that, I'm not aware of any. The advance acquisition contract was signed in April, 1987, and the first new production F-14D was delivered in 1990.

Regarding cost and maintenece savings, yes they would be massive. For example, during the F-14Ds early years it was fully supported with spare parts and personnel. At that point the mmh/fh were 17 and trending downward. This couldn't be maintained as the program lost priorities and parts availability fell and the maintenance personnel pipeline started drying up. For the record, even with full support, it never would have been able to match the Super Bug's numbers in that area because the latter was a new airfcraft benefiting from later airframe technology. It was a known tradeoff, trading ease of support for more capability.
 
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F-14D

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Any chance that during the ATA program someone takes a look and says "Wait a minute, Northrop is right, there is no way they Navy can get what they want at the cost they want." So everything gets reexamined and maybe Northrop gets the contract. It's still at risk of being cancelled due to the end of Cold War and the beginning of a lot of naivety but it might work out.

So maybe you get a working A-12 and full production of F-14D (hopefully followed by an F-14E with most of the ST-21 stuff) but then what? There are still some F/A-18s to replace so I'd guess the whole "lets add a CATOBAR variant to CALF" idea gets traction and personally I think that would be good to avoid.
The initial plan was A-12 and F-14D, with NATF eventually replacing the D. Without Cheney and his anti-Grumman bias, ST-21 and AST-21 would be fallbacks for the failure of the A-12 and NATF programs. There were no plans to replace the F-18, the Navy had wanted an all high-end no low-end air wing since the all F-14 and A-6 wing they wanted in the 70s, which given they have a limited number of airfields (carriers) makes sense. The Marines might operate their A/STOVL off Navy carriers along with their A-12s, but probably only to see if it could be done rather than as a matter of routine.

With regards to the A-12, Northrop (working with Vought and Grumman, so another reason Cheney not being there would help) knew it couldn't meet the mandated price point for the A-12, but they had a design that would have worked. GD had a design that didn't work, but thought they could meet the price point. The Navy and Northrop believed Congress wouldn't go for the cost of the Northrop design (which is why Northrop made their final proposal non-compliant, so they wouldn't lose money if they won) so the USN gambled on GD/MD being able to modify their design so it would work while staying inside the cost limits. After all, a chance at something is better than nothing. Instead they wound up with worse than nothing, meaning wasted time, money, and reputation on a design that was never going to work.

The Navy would have been better off declaring Northop the winner and going to Congress and saying 'this will work, but it will be much more expensive' hoping they might get a small order that could perhaps be expanded if the program was successful. If Congress doesn't go for it, or the design doesn't work out, the fall back should be the Super-Tomcat designs until A/FX can be developed. And since A/FX is a high end design with greater range, payload and performance than the F-35C, it should never have been rolled into JAST, which also should have remained separate MRF and A/STOVL programs, rather than everyone getting a variation of A/STOVL which only fully meets the needs of the Marines and anyone with STOVL carriers.

Regarding A-12, you've got to remember that the Gov't directed who to team with whom. Left to their own devices, you probably would have seen Northrop and McDonnell Douglas team. As it was, you ended up with one team that had extensive stealth experience as well as two companies that had a long and deep carrier aircraft background with multiple aircraft on the current decks, and another with two companies with no stealth experience led by a company that had no carrier experience partnered with a company that at the time the had a carrier background but at the time only had half of one of the jets in service at the tie. And the leader wouldn't listen to the experienced carrier guys anyway.

The Navy was crazy because they wanted a fixed price development contract (those always go wrong) and wanted a price that was unrealistic. Grumman remembered what had happened to them when they agreed that kind of thing with the F-14. Basically, what the team decided said, "We know how to build this plane, and it can't be done for what they want". No way were they going to step into that quicksand. The team didn't want to not bid because that would embarrass the customer and that's something you never do. So, they submitted a bid that was guaranteed to be "non-responsive" by not being a fixed price bid and got the Navy to eliminate them . You might recall that Lockheed, which tended to bid on almost everything at the time, wanted to be as far away from ATA as possible, they could also see what was coming. OTOH, they bid with multiple teams for the much more realistic A/FX. We can see that in the case of ATA/A-12, the only thing worse than losing the contract was winning it.

Navy had permanently completely pulled out of NATF; it would not have succeeded the Tomcat, although in leaving they indicated they preferred the Lockheed design. Navy said they believed the F-14D and derivatives (that's where Super Tomcat 21 would come in) could meet their fighter needs until around 2015 or so. Had that plan come to fruition. the A-X would have not become A/F-X since the Tomcat would be handling the fighter and eventually a backup strike role role.

I agree that had that plan proceeded, Navy would not be part of JSF. , There would be no need; they'd already have a better striker. You would have seen the joint aircraft that USMC and USAF were working on behind the scenes go into production. It took advantage of DARPA's brilliant work on swapping a lift module for a fuel tank in two models of an aircraft that had very similar requirements aside form range and airfield performance. Without the anchor (pun intended) of having to heavily compromise the aircraft for carrier performance but maintain commonality (which didn't happen anyway), a lot of the F-35 problems wouldn't have materialized. I have always maintained that it was the Navy's necessary carrier compatibility requirements, not the Marine's STOVL requirements (thanks to DARPA) that were the problem in a "something for everyone" aircraft.
 
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Navy had permanently completely pulled out of NATF; it would not have succeeded the Tomcat, although in leaving they indicated they preferred the Lockheed design.
Just to be perfectly clear, what you mean here is that there was no going back on the NATF decision once the USN decided to exit, not that the NATF wasn't intended to replace the F-14 before the Navy decided to exit the ATF program, right? Because this sentence can be read to imply that the NATF was never intended to replace the F-14 at all, and I don't think that's what you meant.

I can see why the AX would become the A/FX, but I don't really see what the point of the "bridge" Super-Tomcat/Super-Hornet program is. There are quite new A-6Es and F-14s, just continue with them (and the F-14D conversion and new buy program), upgrading them as you go, and take the money you would save developing the Super- planes and roll it into the A/FX program. Without Cheney and his anti-Grumman bias is there even a need for the Super-Hornet or Super-Tomcat?
 

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Another potential butterfly... No Cheney under Bush Sr probably means no Cheney under Bush Jr. No VP Cheney could likely lead to no Gulf War v2.0. With the US staying out of Iraq you could see an actual resolution in Afghanistan far earlier and more money available for development programs, so more F-22s etc. There could be a whole host of potential butterflies in the early 2000's.
 

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Navy had permanently completely pulled out of NATF; it would not have succeeded the Tomcat, although in leaving they indicated they preferred the Lockheed design.
Just to be perfectly clear, what you mean here is that there was no going back on the NATF decision once the USN decided to exit, not that the NATF wasn't intended to replace the F-14 before the Navy decided to exit the ATF program, right? Because this sentence can be read to imply that the NATF was never intended to replace the F-14 at all, and I don't think that's what you meant.

I can see why the AX would become the A/FX, but I don't really see what the point of the "bridge" Super-Tomcat/Super-Hornet program is. There are quite new A-6Es and F-14s, just continue with them (and the F-14D conversion and new buy program), upgrading them as you go, and take the money you would save developing the Super- planes and roll it into the A/FX program. Without Cheney and his anti-Grumman bias is there even a need for the Super-Hornet or Super-Tomcat?
Good catch. That first sentence should have begun: "Once Navy had permanently..." my point being that once Navy withdrew, it could not go back and later get an NATF or revisit the decision. The A-X became the A/FX because with the loss of the Tomcat, the plane would have to have more self protection ability than just stealth and ECM. The "bridge" program was needed because with the failure of the A-12 and the A-6 going away (already scheduled, production parts no longer being ordered, last one to be delivered in January 1992), there would be gap in capability until the A-X (which would be years behind the planned A-12 IOC ), something needed to be fielded to handle at least part the mission until it got there. The reason for the Super Hornet's existence was to be that interim aircraft. Quickstrike was the Grumman proposal to fill that gap.

If Cheney hadn't killed the -14D there would also be no reason for the Super Hornet to exist. For the record, the Super Tomcat was the F-14D. The Super Tomcat 21 was a further development proposed as an NATF alternative. There were actually two versions of the Super Tomcat 21s proposed to be fielded. , One a fighter with secondary strike capability and a second with those priorities reversed. If the A-12 or A-X had been fielded, you probably wouldn't have seen the latter brought on line.
 
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The "bridge" program was needed because with the failure of the A-12 and the A-6 going away (already scheduled, production parts no longer being ordered, last one to be delivered in January 1992), there would be gap in capability until the A-X (which would be years behind the planned A-12 IOC ), something needed to be fielded to handle at least part the mission until it got there. The reason for the Super Hornet's existence was to be that interim aircraft. Quickstrike was the Grumman proposal to fill that gap.
Did the decision to end support for and procurement of the A-6 pre-date or post-date Cheney as SecDef? In other words, could putting someone else in that position change the A-6 sundown? Or perhaps lead to the resurrection of the A-6F in some form after the cancellation of the A-12?
 

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Exactly, and that is what came to pass.

Look at F-14D capabilities that had been incrementally added by 2005 - working JTIDS/Link-16, ASPJ (back from the grave) ALR-67(Vx) EGI navigation, full air-to-ground weapons implementation + LGB (with self lase from LANTIRN), GGW (GPS-guided weapon) integration, ROVER, active PTID, APG-71 Medium PRF & SAR, a minimal latent AMRAAM capability, etc. That was at least Quickstrike functionality. Added laboriously, piece by piece.

And A-6F, A-12 and NATF? Dead. And the A-6E was sacrificed in the late 1990s to pay for the F-14A/B Upgrade effort, and the F-14D air-to-ground capabilities.
Mot of those capabilities were planned for the F-14D from the get-go. they took longer to phase in because of the prejudice in DoD against the Tomcat and its lower priority. In the case of AIM-120, F-14D was always intended to carry it, maybe as many as eight and possibly 10 (F-14 ws first a/c to fire an unguided AIM-120). What happened was the adaption of LANTIRN was done in the field, unofficially and "off the books". When presented to NAVAIR funding was denied on the grounds that the Tomcat was already canceled and so no money was available to add this capability (plus it threatened the Super Hornet program). the Tomcat community came back and said implementing AIM-120 was already a Program of Record. They'd be willing to give that up and use those funds to get LANTIRN instead...and so it was.

Even though the Tomcat did start using some of the air to ground capabilities that had always been in the jet, it never got to the Quickstrike level. Quickstrike would have been an F-15E level striker with enhancements. The APG-70 software was never ported over, the radar refinements were never done, the revised displays were never incorporated along with full NVG capability, LANTIRN never received full integration, etc. The Quickstrike would have been capable of using any weapon the Super Hornet could; as it turned out some of the weapons integration work on Tomcats that had begun was actually halted. I'm including a picture of a planned weapon load that I don't think made it to the Fleet.

In the case of ASPJ it did not come back from the grave. Two Congressmen decided they wanted to look powerful and so made all kinds of unfair claims and championed killing it. When it turned out to work, they didn't want to back down so they demanded to get funding it would have to jump through strange hoops. Some of the things they demanded it do were physically and mathematically impossible. Production was terminated at 100 and they went to a warehouse. Foreign countries lined up to buy the "failed" units. Since the F-14D production was terminated at 55 airframes, those 100 were more than enough to equip them. Our forces in Bosnia begged for their capability and I believe Congress overrode itself to a limited extent to authorize 36 more podded versions for Hornets, but I can't remember if they were actually built.

A-6E was not sacrificed to pay for F-14A/B. By the late 1990s, all the Bs (in fact all Tomcats) had long since been built. What happened was that some A-6Es lives were being extended through a wing strengthening program. The Super Hornet program was very controversial and had been questioned multiple times. The question arose again in parts of Congress as to why we were extending the life of some A-6ES to handle part of the mission if the Super Hornet was so wonderful. That couldn't stand So the response was to issue a stop work order on the the A-6 rewinging program. End of problem. For those unfamiliar, a stop work order means just that . When the order is received, everyone puts down their tools and walks away from whatever is being done. Those strengthened birds that are in flight test are ordered to immediately return and are grounded. The gov't then negotiates with the contractor on an amount to pay for shutting the line down, penalties for termination of the contract through no fault of the contractor and how to scrap in progress work (and aircraft).

That's what sacrificed the A-6E in the late '90s.
 

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The "bridge" program was needed because with the failure of the A-12 and the A-6 going away (already scheduled, production parts no longer being ordered, last one to be delivered in January 1992), there would be gap in capability until the A-X (which would be years behind the planned A-12 IOC ), something needed to be fielded to handle at least part the mission until it got there. The reason for the Super Hornet's existence was to be that interim aircraft. Quickstrike was the Grumman proposal to fill that gap.
Did the decision to end support for and procurement of the A-6 pre-date or post-date Cheney as SecDef? In other words, could putting someone else in that position change the A-6 sundown? Or perhaps lead to the resurrection of the A-6F in some form after the cancellation of the A-12?
No, the Navy was already working on an A-6 replacement, and at that point restarting the A-6F would have been too little too late by the time it could be fielded. The A-X was actually the plane the Navy should have worked on rather than the ATA/A-12
 

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A-6E was not sacrificed to pay for F-14A/B. By the late 1990s, all the Bs (in fact all Tomcats) had long since been built.
Sorry @F-14D, I think we are in violent agreement on many things, but for my part - I think that we saw the programs from different vantage points.

- What I said was "And the A-6E was sacrificed in the late 1990s to pay for the F-14A/B Upgrade effort, ...", not to fund forward build of F-14A/B airframes - which you correctly point out - had ended. I may have cause and effect reversed, but we worker bees were briefed that Upgrade money came from the money freed up from A-6.

- As far as the F-14D community was concerned, ASPJ was indeed exhumed from the grave; retrieved from dead storage in warehouses and mounted in empty racks in the aircraft and hooked up to [previously] capped and stowed connectors.

- Some of the Quickstrike capabilities were eventually implemented piecemeal, out of OMN money rather that APN money. These include Night Vision compatibility (as NVIS retrofits, prototyping circa 1994-5, implemented as AFC-875).

- Hughes had technical difficulty (for reasons) but did finally successfully port over MPRF and SAR mapping modes into the APG-71 somewhere about tape D04 (2002).

- LANTIRN was never fully integrated, but it worked "good enough". One workaround was to put an INS in the LANTIRN pod. (This and other mods yielded a better pod than the Air Force was flying. One thing that got away was target mensuration which would have been cosmic, but couldn't really be supported by the systems architecture, at least not over 1553 which had a data transfer rate that was looking more and more limited as time went by. Advertised as 1mbit/sec - think 1baseT - effective rate was closer to 650 kbit/sec, fully saturated, once you figure in overhead, intermessage gap and other technical jiggery pokery. )

- F-14D AMRAAM implementation was almost complete in Tape D02 when shelved by NAVAIR (I think as part of the reorientation to air-to-ground - not really sure). AMRAAM software was regression tested through D03B until that testing was formally dropped in D04. Remaining software issues included finishing integration with the AWM-96 and AWM-103 test sets. Reportedly (TINS) NAVAIR had second thoughts about eject launching the AMRAAM from the belly stations and did not want to divert money from air-to-ground testing to fund an air-to-air release program. A last-gasp informal proposal was made to qualify rail launch (which obviated the possible problems with belly ejection launch) from Stations 1B and 8B but that didn't happen either.

- Both the F-14A/B Upgrade and F-14D received VPM (VHISC Processor Module) Mission Computers (caveats and details TLDR). ROVER was integrated with F-14D on the boat during last cruise; a capability unthought of in Quickstrike. And other WRA replacements were funded through FCT funding (DFCS) and R&M money (F-14A/B CSDC/R and VDIG/R - aka Sparrowhawk HUD).

My point is that many Quickstrike capabilities were integrated into the Tomcat the hard way, as "aftermarket" mods funded out of O&M money and corpses of other programs rather than APN (forward build procurement/ACAT) money.
 

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aim9xray:

Thanks!, That's good gouge!

You're right about the A-6 funding shifting to the F-14. I was discussing the situation as of the time Cheney was in charge and drew the wrong inference from your post. . Thing is, the decision for the A-6 to go away happened in the '80s, which is why we had the ATA/A-X/A/F-X situation. With the A-6 going away, plus the fact that the longer it stayed around added to the controversy regarding why develop the Super Hornet, if A-6 was carrying on put it in the crosshairs. It was a threat. The Hornet lobby within and without the Government is the most effective I've ever seen. So diverting funds to a plane that was not a threat to Super Bug's development and fielding into a plane that was definitely going away and not a threat to Super Bug anymore shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

We are also saying the same thing regarding ASPJ, just semantics. I was referring to back from the grave as if resuming production. An interesting note was that for a while the US was actually offering those unis in the warehouse for export (it being a failure and all, you know). This turned into another embarrassment to those Congress critters' ego when other countries lined up to ask for them.


Yes, incrementally F-14 got part of what would have been in Quickstrike, but as you point out, not all. For one thing I believe the APG-71 used a different programming language than the APG-70, so porting over stuff would take some additional time and money to do, but that was figured into the Quickstrike proposal. The idea was with Quickstrike you'd get all that in a neat little package all at once. By the time those things got added to the D incrementally, it was no longer a threat to the Hornet E/F.

Actually the first aircraft to fire an (unguided) AIM-120 was the F-14. As I understand it the reason the AIM-120 integration was shelved was LANTIRN. The full story of how it got on the Tomcat is fascinating, and should be looked up by all. Basically Martin Marietta some fleet aviators, I think VF103, and some higher-ups "conspired to bring LANTIRN over not as an official program I even believe some folks in USAF arranged for a LANTIRN system to be "loaned for evaluation" to the effort. Only the targeting pod was used and improved , the F-14 already had its own navigation systems to handle that part. Technically, the system was now called the LANTIRN Targeting System (LTS). They got to a point where they could present a working system to the full NAVAIR as a fait accompli, as it were. NAVAIR said there was no money to officially test it, bring it into the fold, procure and deploy it. The Tomcat community came back hat given how much longer the Tomcat would be around they would waive getting AIM-120 if the money that was to be used for that would be made available to bring in LTS. NAVAIR agreed, and that's why the work on AIM-120 was shelved midstream.
 
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Ahh. Never heard the "rest of the story" on F-14D/AMRAAM. Fits the timeline. Thanks!

For the live AMRAAM launches on a/c 224, Hughes modified one of the AWG-9 WRAs for 1553 comms to the missile - there was no other 1553 bus on the F-14A at the time. I think that AWG-15F control to those station decoders was bypassed for those tests so that the AWG-9 could act as a mini-Stores Management Set and handle both the decoder and missile control as 1760 intended.
 

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I never quite realized that Tomcats missed the AMRAAM train and thus stuck with Sparrows until their very end in 2006. :eek:
Such irony, for the one and only aircraft carrying Phoenix.
 

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We've been discussing the F-14 a lot, but let me point out that a number of other things that may have changed.

Aside from the F-14D surveying and the Super Hornet likely never appearing, another aircraft whose fate would have been different is the V-22. If he hadn't become SECDEF the craft would likely have entered service years earlier. You might remember he canceled over the recommendations of most of his-technical advisers. In fact, the assistant who was expressing the most reservations about the program didn't recommend outright cancellation. The program survived only because Bell & Boeing funded work on it on their own. Even Bill Clinton said if elected he'd restore it. Since an election was coming up, I believe Cheney stepped down and since he wouldn't be embarrassed by being overruled, the V-22 was restored. However, Clinton won. The V-22 development continued but it fell afoul of one of Clinton's strategies. If you'll look at those years you'll find that a lot of programs were ongoing, but their schedule and funding were restructured and pushed out so that the big bills would not hit until after the 2000 election when it was someone else's problem. Same thing happened to the F-22 and SSN development and others.

SR-71 probably would have survived as a smaller program, which is what was necessary. Still, there was not a lot of lost on the program by AF Chief of Staff, so it might have gotten killed anyway. The battleships may or amy not have survived, but if so, only for a few more years. they were big budget targets and fire support is a mission Navy has neglected for decades.

So there are really two questions: What if Cheney never became SECDEF and Bush was re-elected, and what would happen if Cheney never because SECDEF and Clinton won?
 

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The USN in 1991 has three fast jet types on its carriers: Tomcats, Hornets and Intruders.
With the demise of the Soviet Navy and no other significant opponent the bureaucrat in me sees the Hornet as the newest and easiest to evolve type becoming the single post Cold War carrier fast jet.
What this thread shows is that the alternatives were either too complex, too expensive or both.
The F35 is the logical fusion of all the ideas and technologies that emerge in the period. It may have flaws but the USN and USMC have it in service while their likely opponents rely on Sukhois developed by the Soviet Union.
Alternate History threads tend to be an excuse to replace stuff we dont like with stuff we do. I am as guilty of this as anyone.
 

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As discussed earlier, the F-14D could have, or could have evolved into anything the Super Hornet could do or more. However, there's no getting around that it would be more expensive to operate. Navy was aware of this and figured it into their projected budgets.

Personally, I'm in the camp that aside from Cheney's dislike, there was an Industrial Policy reasoning behind what happened. It was known that there wasn't going to be enough work in the doming years to support all the manufacturers then in operation. MDD was a versatile manufacturer of diverse aircraft types, including the much wanted KC-10 and C-17, while Grumman was a good but specialized manufacturer of naval aircraft. From the Washington point of view in 1990, it was more important to keep MDD around, and the only program they had that could be used to keep them around (and didn't threaten other programs with big constituencies) was the Hornet
.
 

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Reading this thread I have this feeling the real missed opportunity was not "more Tomcats" but AF/X. Notably Lockheed entry.
That one was
- no A-6 (obsolete)
- no Tomcat (a bit old)
- no Hornet (bad range)
- no doomed expensive flying dorito
- no expensive NATF
- no compromised F-35
 
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pathology_doc

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"Alternate History threads tend to be an excuse to replace stuff we don't like with stuff we do. I am as guilty of this as anyone."
This text should be pinned as part of the integral website text structure at the top of the alternative history thread, in VERY LARGE bold caps, with an encouragement to read it aloud to oneself before posting. I would almost go so far as to suggest that one should have to read it as a pop-up when starting a new thread here.
 
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