Friday, March 07, 2008

USN Plans More Super Hornets

Information Dissemination reports:

In the testimony before the Senate last week Roughead's prepared statement (PDF) had some
interesting comments under the section labeled "Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)". The
comments actually are intended to float an idea to buy 69 more F/A-18E/F Super
Hornet fighters.

And I love this comment by the admiral, which sums up the dire need:

The increased operational tempo...of our legacy aircraft is
consuming service life at an accelerated rate. The recent groundings of high
demand P-3 aircraft highlight the need to bring the next generation of aircraft
in service and retire our aging aircraft.

This is a good idea. Between the First Gulf War and Gulf War 2, the US Military deployed 10 new UAV platforms, but only a single new jet fighter, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The Super Hornet went from concept to prototype; from trials to frontline service in a remarkably short time for a military jet (1992-2002). Since the plane was not a totally new design, but based on the proven F/A-18 Hornet, it was allowed to skip some Congressional mandated flyoff trials, thus cutting years off its entry into service.

The F/A-18E/F is a so-so fighter when compared to the futuristic F-22 Raptor. As a bomber, the plane cannot match the stealth of even the first generation F-117 Night Hawk. Where the new plane does excel is its low cost compared to modern super fighters, but especially because IT IS A NEW PLANE, compared to the archaic jets the USAF is forced to make due with in Iraq and Afghanistan. The power of modern weapons such as precision bombs, cruise missiles, and AMRAAM air to air missiles don't necessarily need a super fighter or stealth bomber for its effect to be felt upon the enemy. They just need a ride!

Platforms then, have become near irrelevant in the new warfare, since an unmanned aerial vehicle little different than the model airplanes flown by amateur civilian enthusiasts have become the future of airpower. Skipping a generation like the off-delayed, $100 million F-35 Lightning II and purchasing more $60 million Super Hornets would bridge the gap until the new robot fighters reach their peak capability.