NavAir Offers F-18 Ammo Amid JSF Woes

NavAir Offers F-18 Ammo Amid JSF Woes

Congressional aides are beginning to wonder if the Navy should buy the carrier version of the Joint Strike Fighter, in light of the program’s rising price tag and its higher flight costs.

“I’m growing more and more convinced that the Navy variant of the F-35 might not be worth buying. The program is sliding further and further to the right, as costs increase. When we have an 80 percent solution in active production, and significantly cheaper, the F-35C looks like a great candidate for cancellation,” said one congressional aide. “Gates has talked about choosing 75 percent solutions over expensive ‘exquisite’ systems and this is a perfect candidate.”

For its part, the Navy, already worried it won’t have enough planes for its carrier fleet, has briefed senior Pentagon leaders that the Joint Strike Fighter program “will have a significant impact on naval aviation affordability in the FYDP and beyond.”


A source who follows JSF closely quoted portions of the NavAir study, “Joint Programs TOC Affordability.” A congressional aide who has seen the report confirmed the information. The study was briefed to DoD leaders earlier this month;

The source said that the study finds “the cost to operate and support the F-35 (all variants) will be $442 billion or more depending on additional costs for integration on ships and currently unforeseen development costs. This estimate is in FY 2002 program baseline dollars; the current dollar cost will be significantly higher. The production and development costs are cited, by the JET II, to be $217 and $46 billion respectively (2002 $), thereby making total program ownership cost to be $704 billion, or more, in 2002 dollars,:” according to this source.

That would put operating costs of the F-35 B and C versions some 40 percent higher “than the cost to operate the existing (larger) fleet of F-18A-Ds and AV-8s. Cost per flight hour of the combined F-18A-D and AV-8 fleets is estimated to be about $19,000 per hour; F-35B/C cost per flight hour is estimated to be about $31,000,” the source said. “These higher and growing operating costs are certainly typical for a new generation aircraft, but the revelation of these estimates at this relatively early point in the program would seem to demonstrate some real and growing concern that the highly complex F-35 is anything but ‘affordable.’”

An industry source noted that the chief of Naval operations “has been very interested across the force in terms of total operating costs. It is significant that this study addresses this.” The industry source said that Super Hornet flying hour costs are about $5,000 an hour.

A second congressional aide raised some questions about the study’s methodology, saying that “the worker level people, when asked about the assumptions by an assistant secretary in the Navy, didn’t have real good answers to that question. So while some of the numbers are very specific, the assumptions are not.” But this aide, who follows both programs, agreed that the NavAir study was a good argument for the F-18. “But yes, if they are looking for tails versus presumed better capability for more money and given the budget crunch and need for more ships they have HUGE problems,” the aide said.

The source who provided the study results noted that it “shows nothing for F-18E/F flight hour costs, which makes me suspicious.”

While Congress may not be ready to cancel the carrier version of the F-35, the industry source noted that support for the F-18 “has been gaining momentum in the Congress really over the last three years,” largely to address what has been identified as a shortfall in the number of planes available. “Each year more and more language has been written noting Congress’ concern with the shortfall as well as questioning what the Navy and DoD are going to do about it.”

Most interestingly, this source said the Navy is looking over the long term for a sixth generation aircraft, one with “increased range, increased persistence, increased speed and increased payload.” The F-35 is, of course, a fifth generation fighter.

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Most interestingly, this source said the Navy is looking over the long term for a sixth generation aircraft, one with “increased range, increased persistence, increased speed and increased payload.” The F-​​35 is, of course, a fifth generation fighter.
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Given the disaster that the fifth generation has been, maybe we should cut the F-35 short like the F-22, and start over.

Yes, I’m wondering about the flight hour costs for the F/A-18E/F models as well. Also, I’d like to know about the historical flight hour costs of the the F/A-18C/D models. I suspect that the flight hour costs decline over the planned useful life (note I said “planned useful life”) of the aircraft as maintainers get better experienced at maintaining them, as operations planners get better at utilizing them, and as parts manufacturers develop more reliable and cost-effective parts.

As an aircraft nears the end of it’s planned useful life, flight hour costs should rise as it becomes more difficult to maintain the aging aircraft.

The smart thing right now would be to go with the safe option — buy more F-18s while you still can. Better a serviceable aircraft today (logistics pipeline full of spares, training well understood, etc) than depending on an aircraft which could be cancelled tomorrow (F-35). It is always too easy to cancel today’s development program in favor of some new aircraft (which would be far cheaper, right???) in the future.

That’s exactly right..it’s always cheaper to cancel a current program for a future program…LOL. But this country has a history of making stupid decisions that involve cancelling aircraft programs too early — the B-1, B-2, F-22, and probably the F-35 now. I think history will show the F-22 cancellation to be one of the greatest strategic mistakes ever made in the aerospace industry, especially as we see the B-2 really start to come into its own with modern technology and weaponry which makes the 1995 refusal of the Clinton admin to procure another 20 the current biggest strategic blunder.

Buying more F-18s keeps the numbers up but the Navy still needs a longer range attack plane to replace the A-6E as a first day of the war capability, and that is what the F-35C gives you. Put the money into the F-35B to replace the Harrier sooner, buy more F-18E/Fs for the Navy, and plan to buy the F-35C later in production. F-35B is the biggest need right now, not the F-35C.

Good Afternoon Folks,

There must be an outbreak of rational though at the dod. Only yesterday the Stars and Strips had an article critical of the F-22 and F-35.

The Navy announced last year that by 2020 they expected at least 65% of their aircraft would be unmanned. That doesn’t leave many slots for manned fighters/attack especially since the F-18 is already in the stable.

Another brick is falling out of the wall.

ALLONS,
Byron Skinner

Some people are going to be critical of the F-35 no matter what the scenario is. The truth is that it is critical to the force structures of both the USAF and USMC. The USN is less concerned since the Super Hornets is still in production and offers capabilities comparable to the F-35, excluding stealth.

In the end both the USAF and USN have a requirement for a large, air-superiority focused fighter like the F-22, and a multi-role fighter like the F-35. This mirrors their previous two-tier organization scheme where smaller numbers of F-14s or F-15s were backed up by larger numbers of F-16s or F/A-18s.

I don’t know where are you getting this figure of 65% unmanned aircraft by 2020, but according to Naval Aviation Vision 2020, the USN was looking for 44 strike fighters (Super Hornets, F-35s, and F/A-XX) and 12 UCAVs per carrier air wing.

The flying hour costs listed seem quite questionable given the Super Hornets “$5000 per flight hour” cost, which is extremely low.

If the Navy canceled or short produced the F-35 C (the navalized version), it would give the US the funds and the opportunity to start over and truly develop a quantum leap 5th generation fighter. The Super Hornets are tremendous aircraft and will fulfill most of the roles we need filled for at least another two decades. This of course assumes there will not be a massive air to air shooting war anytime soon, and even if we engaged in one, we still have superior force projection, pilots, data linked systems, etcetera. The navy probably won’t need a (questionable) 5th generation fighter as much as we need UAVs, and it would certainly send a signal to our 3 1/2 combat aircraft manufacturing firms that it’s time to spend more time at the drafting table and less time at the lobbying firms.

My bet is that the F-35 will prove to be a good plane, and the Marines will love it. It’s versatile, uses short runways and has a fully modern digital cockpit, and carries robust payloads. If it is not obviously and impressively a whole lot better than the Super Hornet for fleet defense and main strike, then we should fly the Super Hornet.

As Curt stated, or perhaps I am reading between the lines: the real planes that needs replacement are the A-6E and frankly the EA-6B Prowler.

Finally, I believe strongly that huge jumps in AI and general drone technology will make this or the next generation of manned fighters obsolete, and sooner rather than later. And if that happens, then this entire conversation will be moot.

Respectfully,

Daniel Russ
Civilianmilitaryintelligencegroup​.com

Editors,

Thank you for approving my comment. One comment on my comment. The word I used for the central control center of an aircraft is “cockpit”. I am assuming that this being a military blog and the cockpit of an aircraft is a common term to describe the place where the pilot interfaces with the controls, then the word should probably not be edited; even if that word shares the same first four letters of the male member.

Perhaps editing nasty epithets is an automated program set in place to take out these words. That said, should the word cockpit really be partially deleted understanding that it is part of pretty much all manned combat aircraft?

If it would please you, I would be happy to refer to that room at the front of most military aircraft as the “Roosterpit”.

Respectfully,

Daniel Russ
Civilianmilitaryintelligencegroup​.com

@Jeb,

I believe that there are a number of new programs already in some stage of development to replace all current combat aircraft. Today, just as in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and the aughts, aircraft companies are busily thinking ahead.

I agree with the notion of restarting the F-22 with some significant changes. First, don’t allow lobbyists to sell the manufacturing to 41 different states. This put tremendous pressure on Congress to build the plane before it was in prototype stage because it meant jobs. It also resulted in parts that did not properly work together and the mechanics had to build out a “shim line” to reconfigure these parts to fit the planes they were built for. Restarting the F-22 might give RAM manufacturers a chance to make a RAM material that will not delaminate after less than two hours of transonic speed.

If the F-22 is all it’s promised to be, then it will be brought back online. My sense is that the hurdles are so high that they could not be easily overcome.

That said, “too expensive” is a valid consideration for any weapon system. Capitalism as I understand it forces companies to compete by making better products for a lower price. We have to say no to “too expensive”, especially today, when there is so much need to spend tax dollars elsewhere. (You know…AIG, Bank of America and Gold Sachs bonuses for example).

Respectfully,

Daniel Russ
Civilianmilitaryintelligencegroup​.com

Daniel,

The system just flags a comment so I can approve it, if appropriate. I’m not even sure that cockpit triggered the flag on your comment. But in these days we need some mechanisms to screen those who would violate our terms of use.

For all that I must point out that some of our female posters — at least some of whom I believe are pilots — might object to roosterpit.…

Thanks Editor,

I can only guess what else might have triggered the flag. Most of my comments are reasonably level headed. At least I think they are.

In the future, how would you prefer that I refer to that little room where the pilots sit?

I’ll try not to be so cocksure in the future. And if I choose to imbibe alcohol I will definitely not refer to my cocktail, or talk about our cocker spaniel or tell anyone here that I stepped on a cockroach.

Respectfully,

Daniel Russ
Civilianmilitaryintelligencegroup​.com

And Navy pilots are put at risk. the S-300/400 series will blast F-18E/F’s out of the sky. Stealth is why we have the JSF.

If congress would stop trying to get 10 lbs out of a 5 lbs bag, this would never have happened.

Doubtful that the F-35 (“affordable” export-friendly stealth… no super-cruise and extreme altitude of the F-22 and..where the F-35 is meant to do the work after the F-22 has cleared the table of big threats.….) is up to the task of an S300/S400 threat. That would be courageous at best. The USN won’t solve that kind of threat by going for the F-35. So what to do? Get Super Hornet Block IIs for the rest of the work and pray some other design (manned or unmanned) in the future will do the job. The “day-one” stealth claim of the F-35 for the Navy works in a legacy IADS environment.

Good luck with those kind of cost numbers for the F-35C with the Navy struggling to pay for big grey floaty things.

To be fair, we don’t know what the operating costs are going to be for the F-35C because it hasn’t been fully tested yet.

Sales claims of the F-22 are that only 5 percent of maintenance needs to break the bubble (where doors or panels require L.O. refurbishment. It took the F-22 4 years to settle down before it started delivering nice MC rates on exercises and deployments. The F-35 is designed to have 1–2 percent of its maintenance break the L.O. bubble. If this proves out it should be very good.

When we have real military aircraft maintainers doing the maintenance at a real active F-35 squadron running for 3–4 years (to build tribal knowledge of what works and what doesn’t in MX procedure) and not PowerPoint slides, then we will know what the operating costs are.

The F-35 remains one of the worst fighter programs in history, and the sad thing is that Sec. Gates continued to protect this loser until the Senate Armed Services Committee closed door spanking of the JSF program in December. With something like 15% of the scheduled test flights completed for 2009, its unknown if this plane can live up to the LM hype.

The F-18 Super Hornet, while very reliable is a 20 year old design with many technical compromises. While the new APG-79 AESA radar, and other avionics are top notch, they are hobbled by an airframe that has difficulty exceeding the speed of sound fully loaded with drop tanks, weapons, etc. Due to design issues with the aircraft, the under wing hardpoints are canted out to stop the under wing turbulence, which just makes a slow fighter even slower with a huge drag increase when loaded with ordnance.

While the US made avionics in the Super Hornet have the edge (at this time), a direct comparison of airframe capabilities with the SU-30 demonstrates that its performance is inferior in many critical areas. All of the new European and Russian fighters are now able to supercruise fully armed, a capability that is completely beyond the Super Hornet.

While the F-22 is always singled out for criticism for being so expensive, its performance envelope is simply superior in all areas over legacy fighters including the Super Hornet. Simply put, you get what you pay for, and the Raptor will continue to be the Red Flag champ for many years to come.

I knew once the F-22 had gotten the chop amid cries of “it’s so expensive!” that the F-35 was going to be up against the wall next, and now it looks like NAVAIR is getting ideas. But saying “Oh, just cancel this one and start over” is absurd given the time it takes to develop and field a modern, stealthy, high-performance aircraft…for that matter, any modern military aircraft, period. If the choice were given to me, I’d have frozen the F-35B program and repeated the lesson of the F-4…a land-based strike fighter built on the bones of a carrier bird. But then, I’d also restart the F-22 line and build it in much greater numbers, with advances in avionics and weapons to cement it as a better all-arounder than the F-35.

Having led the first JSF (F-35) joint budget review team back in 2000, seven major and six minor problem areas were highlighted. Most required additional infusions of money to fix since they were considered outside the planned development efforts. Not making those commitments upfront (Rumsfeld’s known unknowns) is what drives up future costs when they eventually come due. It understates a known budget. The steep cost increases popping up now are just a recognition of those underfunded areas as they occur.

The slow pace of testing is partly based on the fact that JSF is incorporating tesing for everything that it will carry, which is over 40 systems (missiles, bombs, FLIR, etc.). Prior aircraft only tested 4 or 5 systems. The rest were paid with operations money. That’s why the testing percentage is so low.

But the whole plan is falling behind, like every other weapon system DoD “manages”. So, it’s not really expensive from the perspective of what cost the program should have been budgeted at. We need full disclosure budgeting or “truth-in-spending” over at the Pentagon so the true complexity of these programs doesn’t detract from the operation capabilities.

thats is a 6th generation accord airforce-magazine
“The sixth generation fighter will likely have directed energy weapons—high-powered microwaves and lasers for defense against incoming missiles or as offensive weapons themselves. Munitions would likely be of the “dial an effect” type, able to cause anything from impairment to destruction of an air or ground target.
It would likely be far stealthier than even the fifth generation aircraft. It may be able to change its shape in flight, “morphing” to optimize for either speed or persistence, and its engines will likely be retunable in-flight for efficient supersonic cruise or subsonic loitering.
you can’t do that with a F-14

http://​www​.airforce​-magazine​.com/​M​a​g​a​z​i​n​e​A​r​c​h​i​ve/
That is the link

Now that we pay the defense contractors profit on aircraft development (since the 1990’s), they make more money designing airplanes than they do on building them. Why do you think Lockheed offered the F-22 up on the chopping block and protected the F-35 at all costs? Sadly, most in this country seem to be convinced defense contractors only look out for the best interest of the US taxpayer and not their own bottom line. You’ll see the F-35 offered up on the chopping block too once there’s no more development funds to be profited from. For Lockheed the cancellation of the F-22 was a win-win. The F-22 threatened the F-35 development program, and, now that it’s cancelled, the USAF has more funding available to develop upgrades to the existing F-22s. Oh boy, more free money!

It’s good for us on the defense contractor side that you taxpaying dolts never tire of being milked. What would we do without you?

Chock — sure we do not want to risk people, but couldn’t cruise missiles take out the S-300/400 sites before any F-18 might have to fly over? As skeptical as I still am of UAVs (they have their place but..) I still recognize that a cruise missile can take out AA. I would wonder if the S-300/400 is also getting mighty expensive and countries would opt for fewer (but more capable) just as we are opting for fewer but more capable aircraft.

The Axman Cometh… to a theater near you…February 2010!

Could you give us your take on why there’s such a fetish for building these extremely complicated systems when there is so much potential risk? Why not build a less complex system quickly, and then evolve it with upgrades, which is the normal course of development for weapons systems in any case?

Hi John,

The reasons for testing falling behind are many and not just the suite of weapons. They are yet to make good progress on getting the full flight envelope cleared.

The Navy should opt out of the F-35C, and develop its own twin engine, 2 crewed, long range/persistent F/A naval aircraft with room to grow, systemwise — basically a 6th generation F-14D. This aircraft need not be optimized for the maneuvering dogfight, but they need to have some degree of stealth in order to take the first shot before detection. Twin-engined for overwater ops. Two crewmen, one to fly and fight, and one to run the systems and control the UCAV’s. Long range to protect the carrier, to standoff / patrol, and the legs to interdict.

Yeah, let’s start over, that will surely be cheaper. People never learn.

Yeah, you can’t “morph” an F-14 for better loiter. To do that, it would need a swing wing. Doh!

Delay production and go to more F-22s and Gen 4.5 F-15 Silent Eagles, F-16s Block 60s and F-18 E/Fs

The F-15SE Silent Eagle offers little to no more value to the Air Force compare to the standard F-15E Strike Eagle, other than a brand new airframe with fresh, ready to burn, flight hours.

Our current batch of F-15E’s can be readily “upgraded” to the Silent Eagle by simply swapping out the standard upright vertical stabilizers for the canted stabilizers, swapping out the original CFT’s for the CFT’s with internal weapons carriages, and repainting it with RAM paint.

Boeing’s press statement mentions that the overall reduced RCS only impacts airborne fighter-based radars, and is of nominal value to ground-based radars. I suspect that the fighter-based radars affected are of the older generation, and has little impact against more modern fighter-based radars.

All in all, the F-15SE Silent Eagle is just more of a pitch to keep the Eagle alive in the market with the advent of the F-35, as well as the attractive F-16, F/A-18E/F, Rafale, Gripen, MiG-35 and Su-30 alternatives.

I’m a big fan of the Eagle, and it is by far the closest to my heart. But I can recognize the Silent Eagle for what it is: a sham.

Also, the Air Force has no interest in the Silent Eagle at all, as Boeing expects… most likely for the very reasons I’ve already mentioned.

Still the design is still very potent, and with the new (V)3 and (V)4 AESA radars, it makes the design exponentially more deadly for reasons that most people wouldn’t think.

The F-18 Hornet or SuperHornet are 4+ Generation fighters being they look like houses on radar and vulnerable to radar. The DoD was stupid to think a F-35 would cost $50-75M per aircraft when the top tier F-16 Block 60/70 cost in excess of $100M. And despite being a single engine aircraft, the program mission of the F-35 is much more complicated than the F-22 and is reason for the program delays. Buying fewer F-35 so that the Navy can build essentially a naval version of a F-22 is one possibility; but to start from scratch and build a totally new aircraft would cost $20-25Billion and as much as 10–12 years to develop. Finally, the DoD made this mistake years ago with the F-111 program and they never learned as it would have been better to build single mission aircraft instead of a Jack of Trades that doesn’t do anything extremely well like the F-35; but this was what the US Military accepted.

The F-35 is the only game in town, that is why the US Navy was not allowed to develop a high end replacement for the F-14 (is: the equivalent of a navalised F-22). The only alternative for the US Navy now
is to accelerate the UCAV program. When the UCAV proves successful, all manned fighter programs will be obsolete. The momentum is building, but the processing technology isn’t quite there yet. Technology is still
advancing and the UCAV autonomous decision making capability should mature in the next decade.

Why do so many people seem to think the newest Russian SAM systems are so great? When have these systems been in combat against Western combat aircraft? Perhaps they are a grave threat and we may need to assume they are but given the known record of Soviet systems against Western trained pilots and airframes I would think this may be a lot of hot air. Its not as if the countermeasures and tactics we use are necessarily the same we had back during Vietnam. Last time I noticed the high tech electronics industry is controlled by the West…

The high tech electronics industry is NOT controlled by the west any longer, its all manufactured in China.

The tactics used in prior conflicts don’t apply to the newest SAM systems. The later models of the S300 and newer S400 systems use large frequency agile phased array radar systems, combined with a mobile launcher that fires a Mach 6 missile the size of a telephone pole. Range for the newest S300 systems is 120+ miles, meaning that just about the time you identify your are being tracked, a very fast missile is on the way.

Your comments on Russian fighters is not accurate. The latest Russian fighters are quite capable of giving our legacy fighters a bloody nose, with only the Raptor holding an edge in performance.

UCAVs will never replace human piloted fighters. Also, the F-35 was meant to supplement the F-22.

So I am supposed to want my tax dollars paying for welfare and bailouts instead? Get real. If I could choose where my tax dollars went 100% would go to defense.

Lockheed and other companies get plenty of money when building the aircraft and it ensures a steady environment for some time. They fought for more F-22s until Gates said they couldn’t. They, Pratt & Whitney, and others would love more F-22s and the F-35 to succeed. In fact development costs less per year than production which is why politicians often cut their support for the current project in favor of something years off.

Charley I agree with you. The Navy needs their own “high-end” twin engined fighter much as the F-14 was. However I think it is a bit premature to aim for a 6th generation design.

Consider two Navy programs during the 1990s. The NATF and the A/F-X provide an interesting look at what the Navy was considering prior to the JSF.

Currently our fighters still possess the edge because of the avionics equipped, however within the past two years the Russians have been closing the gap.

Good post RSF. The record of Soviet systems against western pilots/aircraft is skewed by the misunderstanding, overconfidence and outright arrogance of Western forces. Theres been a compulsion by many to overestimate the ability of Western equipment and underestimate Soviet equipment. Maybe to admit the truth would be too damaging for Western arms manufacturers. The US (and Israel) for eg have almost always faced third world opponents using export quality systems and even then they have often proved more than a match for their opponents. In the 60s SA-2s were successful against a variety of US aircraft, in the 70s SA-6s and ZSUs were highly successful the Israeli’s (SA-6s were still effective against US aircraft as late as 1995). In fact when the F-117s were state of the art, 2 were still destroyed by 60s vintage SAMs in Kosovo. What does that tell you about how good stealth is against opponents even only marginally inferior technologically.

Whatever you have been led to believe about Soviet systems from Desert Storm is just nonsense. The M829A1 ‘silver bullet’ that was effective in Iraq did nothing to Soviet T-80s examined in East Germany. East German Mig-29s were more than a match for F-16s in exercises and more recently, Su-30MKIs of the IAF won 90% of engagements in exercises against F-15s with allegedly inferior radar. On the very rare occasion the Soviets themselves fought US and Israeli forces (Nth Korea and Middle East respectively) the exchange ratio was about 1:1. The Raptor is good but with even Russian Gen4++ aircraft getting Raptor features (eg supercruise) its time at the top will be short.

As for the S-400, it combines the best of Russian design and Western level technology.

Though the U.S. often acts like Russia is still the enemy (which will only ensure they keep themselves well defended and looking suspiciously at the US), they aren’t. They do however make and sell some great weapons which its best to be honest about coz otherwise to go up against it and get stung will be very costly.

As far as the F-35 goes, if you want to save money on that, then ONLY produce the USMC variant. The USAF and USN can still use it and the USAF needs to get aircraft that don’t need a long runway to take off. All the enemy has to do is take out the runways and the USAF is done. Another problem with most of our aircraft is the FACT that they are worn out! Right now we need more F-22s to replace worn out F-15s and F-16s. We should also be going full speed ahead on 6th generation fighters. I also agree that the Navy needs their own 5th and 6th generation fighters NOW. The F-18 is way too inadequate to protect the fleet from the threats they face today. Once again we are going to find ourselves in a world of hurt when the next big war breaks out, because we will be way underprepared.
I consider anyone that helps our enemies to be our enemy, which is exactly what Russia is. And if we keep borrowing money from China and then we cannot pay it back, we will quickly make an enemy out of them, if they aren’t our enemy already. Bottom line is that our military needs a new build up, soon. Yes we do have the money and plenty of it. You just get rid of this Nanny state mentality and all of these bailouts, then the money is there.

Just not true. The department couldn’t begin to start another 5th generation production program. Quantum leap over what? Restart the F-22 after producing 187 aircraft? With what? The Services have had a difficult enough time justifying to naysayers why we need the F-22 and F35 now to combat what enemy? Now we need a quantum leap above that? JSF is already driving the Defense budget now…a new development of a manned fighter aircraft is simply not affordable in todays environment.

Agree–unmanned will dominate this space in the future and regardless of what is being published in documents now, the ratio will be much closer to the 65% than the 20% alluded to above…have to think beyond 2020.

China manufactures consumer electronics (for the most part), but US companies developed the components, and continues to build the most sophisticated military electronic systems in the world.

I took a nap in the shade of the wing of an f-18 last summer. Seemed like a nice airplane with lots of shade area.

Yes, the problem are the Nanny state and bailouts. Freedom and democracy are at risk because of them.

Is the F-35 nearing EOL already before T&E is concluded?

Couldn’t agree with you more on the Intruder comment. The Navy is hurting for a carrier bomber with real legs and fifth generation features, not tactical air.

That addresses several of my cnoencrs actually.

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