Gates OKs F-18 Multiyear

Gates OKs F-18 Multiyear

DefSec Robert Gates finally gave the nod to using the multiyear authority granted him by Congress last year.

Rep. Todd Akin, top Republican on the House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee, has pushed and pushed and pushed for Gates to use the multiyear authority that Congress granted, and which it jealously guards, immediately crowed about the news.

“I commend Secretary Gates and (Navy) Secretary Mabus for seeing the light and moving forward with a multiyear contract.  A multiyear contract for F-18s saves the Navy and taxpayers over half a billion dollars, provides stability for the workforce in St. Louis, and is an important insurance policy as the Navy faces a large strike fighter shortfall.  It is encouraging to see the Navy and DoD come to their senses on this issue, after I have spent two years arguing that a multiyear contract made sense on all fronts,” said the Missouri lawmaker.

“This multiyear is the first step toward addressing the Navy’s fighter shortfall, but more needs to be done.  Super Hornets are fantastic planes that provide amazing capabilities for our Navy and are the most affordable fighter aircraft the DoD is currently buying.  The DoD should consider using the fantastic price provided by the multiyear contract to buy additional planes to reduce the Navy’s fighter gap” said Akin.

Akin’s state colleague, Sen. Kit Bond, issued a brief press statement, calling the decision “a tremendous win” for the military and the country.

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, said the multiyear should help the US bridge the much-debated fighter gap, between the aging F-18 fleet and the introduction of the carrier version of the F-35. “Not only is this deal good for U.S. taxpayers, but it will ultimately provide much needed air assets to our military. Until the Joint Strike Fighter comes online and is deployed, our nation faces a requirements shortfall that must be mitigated. The Navy’s decision will help fill that gap,” McKeon said.

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Does anyone know if this buy is going to have any improvements to the aircraft? I think it would make sense to do some improvements to the plane if this type of order is done even if the improvements are small.

I wonder if this is another USN warning signal about the JSF. By keeping this production line going, it certainly opens up their option of sticking with the SuperHornet as their primary aircraft for a good bit longer. They must reasonably be wondering if one JSF is really worth two and a half SuperHornets, plus the higher operating costs.

They come out with new models for f-18’s every 4 or 5 years, since its only been in service for about 25 years. The ea-6b prowlers are one of the most important assets this nation has and its only been through about 3 major upgrades in 40+ years of service.

Proven technology aircraft are always a good deal, the hard part is knowing when to jump from one make to another! But the F-18 is a good solid airframe that will be in service for the next thirty years.

Knowing our leadership Benjamin, they’ll probably going to buy all the prototypes versions of the craft instead of upgrading the F-18 to all the latest and greatest proven technologies…

Good Evening Folks,

Colin is being kinda sly here he missed a few details, minor to be sure, but never the less, I thinks they should at least be mentioned. Sorry Colin.

This is a deal, done behind closed doors in the dark of the night is in two parts. Already approved by the important members and cleared with Sec. Gates and in the bag, is a four year contract,I have the production rates but they are not all that relative to this discussion, I don’t know the “fantastic price”, but I’m sure it is fantastic only relative to another air frame. Anyhow back to what I was saying. The already done deal will run through 12/31/13 it buys 124 each F/A-18E/F Hornets and 24 each EA-18G Growlers.

Now things get interesting. The other part of the deal which has not yet been approved but is on the front burner calls for 515 F/A-18E/F Hornets and 114 EA-18G Growlers. No termination date given.

As I sees it, the implications are two major ones. To start with the deficient of 100 F/A 18’s for the Navy is a smoke screen and means nothing. The Navy with little trouble could fill in with what they have by reassign squadrons and wait for the F-35.

First the Navy doesn’t expect the F-35, if it’s ever built to be ready before the end of the decade or most likely later. The F-35 really doesn’t fill the needs that the F/A18EF fills. It’s a single pilot aircraft, single engine aircraft, and definitely not an air superiority fighter that could take on the Mig 29’s that the Navy would likely face in the West Pacific, if it came to that. In short the F-35 is lousy value for its cost.

Secondly. The next aircraft carrier that will come after the USS Ford. The USS Ford has gone “bonkers” in costs. Projected at $11 billion when the contracts were let out, it was at $26 billion on 12/31/09 and official sources that I have seen project its final price tag at in excess of $40 billion.

The line in the sand for the next carrier has been drawn at $16 billion. Just to compare the USS George H.W. Bush will cost $6 billion when its turned over to the fleet hopefully in this government year.

The Carrier issue could hit the fan as soon as the next budget. The US will buy more carriers, thats a fact, the US surface fleet is carrier centric, but their will be a lot of political blood on the water before the next hull is authorized.

Byron Skinner

That little tidbit about one engine? yeah, I seem to remember ‘back in the days’ when the Hornet pilot lost an engine. Made it back to the boat still with his good one and saved the taxpayers.…. Seem to also remember ‘back then’ about the exhaust placement. F-18s had it up in the air and not much to worry about. F-14s (like the F-35) will have it down low and will sweep people off their feet like it happened to me. Shredded the skin off my leg and ruined a good set of pants. You know what they say as you go sliding down the deck, “grab a padeye? They were flashing by me too fast!” Luckily the exhaust blast stopped as soon as he got over his little hump.


I find it hard to believe that an aircraft carrier is going to cost $26 billion, or $40 billion as you say. Then why not stick with the Nimitiz class?

Also — USS George H W Bush has been turned over to the Navy for approx. 1 year. It’s had its flight deck certified and is likely sitting in Norfolk’s navy base right now (haven’t check the navy web site lately), but she was in the background of picture of another ship at the piers.

If what you say is true — then it’s a scandal of monumental proportions, and any publicity I’ve seen about reduction in life cycle costs over Nimitz class is out the window. Not even in a new class of carriers can explode from $6 billon on Nimitiz class to $40 billion on Ford class.

The Navy has operated single engined jet aircraft before. The A-4 Skyhawk, A-7 Corsair, and F-8 Crusader just to think of a few.

The Ford class carriers have run into trouble with the EM launch system, but much of the design is based off of the later Nimitz class carriers anyway.

And Byron, once the F-35C has more of it’s planned capabilities (six internal AAMs, internal AIM-9X capability, etc.) it should be more than a match for any Mig-29 variant.

e 6s dont fight nor bomb .…jam radar you fool…ask me how i know that Haaa

the E6 is just an A 6 intruder(1968) /stretch version…with four men.…flys ahead of bombers …TY Mj. U.S.M.C.

Remember now .…the F/A 18 Rhino.…two men .…R.O. in the back like a Tomcat.…two heads are better then one no’?

Yeah, but when they go in the water it’s just a bunch of extra parts which i saw happened more than once, oh yeah last time we found the helmet and it was ugly. Myself, I kinda like the extra engine, just like an extra tire, bump battery, water bottle, cell-phone in my car. You know, just in case.

Good Morning Folks,

To. wharf rat. If you go over to the Naval Institute and go back into 2009 and look at their articles you can find adequate documentation of the price problems with the USS Ford. There are other sources that follow this kind of thing including the “unofficial” Navy Times and even the “official” DoD News Service.

I believe I used the term “turned over to the fleet” for the USS Bush, which is after all the sea trials, builders trials, shake downs etc. have been done and the ship is ready for service.

The Electro Magnetic launch catapult is being designed and manufactured by Gulf General Atomic, they also make the EM rail gun, and the Predator/Reaper/Avenger family of UAV.s among there other ventures. The last that I read or heard, my wife use to work for GA and we still know some who currently do, on the catapult that is was going fine and was nearly ready to send to Norfolk for installation on the USS Ford.

Both the F/A-18EF and the F-35C are simply platforms, delivery systems if you like. It is assumed that the same weapons could be adapted for use on either air frame. The F/A-18EF and EA-18G are cheaper, with the “back seater” the E/F-18 EF and the EF-18G simply fill more critical rolls for the Navy such as dual role multi-mission, tanker, EW, ISR etc. then the F-35C, the E/F-18EF’s and EA-18G’s support and services systems both on shore and afloat have been in place for decades.

At the price difference and the escalation of carrier costs even if the $16 billion line on the beach can be held by the Navy for future carriers, money is of a concern. With say 40 aircraft of this nature in an Carrier Air Group and a likely price difference of $100 million or more per air frame, that’s at least a savings of $4 billion dollars, or a reduction in the price of new carriers to $12 billion or twice the last of the Nimitz Class.

The F-35 just doesn’t add up for the Navy.

Byron Skinner

f-35 was one crappy plane for this price

Upgrade the Harriers for the Navy, scrap the overpriced and overbudget F-35 program, and put money toward buying more F-22s and stealth helicopters.

The F-18E/F was basically forced on the Navy by the canceled A-12 project. The F-22 (then a black program) was eating up all of the Pentagon resources for new fighter development and the Pentagon would not fund a replacement for the F-14. The F-18E/F was sold to Congress as an upgrade for the F-18C/D models to get it funded. Of course, the F-18E/F is a new airframe without the air superiority characteristics of the F-14D and is no where near the capabilities of the F-22A. This plane was a stop gap measure due to the age of the F-14 and F-18C/D. The F-35C was to be the F-18C/D replacement, yet as always, won’t be ready on schedule. Now the US Navy has to rely on the F-18E/F in roles for which it was not envisioned. The F-18E/F will be outclassed in dog fights with the newer generation Russian/Chinese fighters. Hopefully, it will have the first shot advantage to minimize fleet losses. The F-35C is not an air superiority design either, so I’m convinced the US Navy future lies in UAV/UCAV platforms.

Tony C is probably on to something here. Much of the many lines of software code being written for the F-35 involves decision making by the aircraft, not the pilot. UAV/UCAV is coming and it’s coming to the navy…

Rather than focusing on this combat jet versus that, I’m interested in hearing some commentary about current and planned air-to-air missiles (what the aircraft carries) and how they add to an aircraft’s fighting capabilities. I keep thinking that white-scarf WW1 dogfighting is going to be an infrequent thing, and that the air war will be won at a distance with missiles (some hypersonic) that do all the real fighting at the edge of the aircraft’s engagement range, not up close and personal. That operational change driven by technology would parallel our use of UAVs for air-to-ground operations. Comments?

Aftter working on different platforms A-4 , EA6A , F-4 B,N,S, and the RF4B’s and now a Tech Rep on the F-18 A-D’s I fine that the Marine Corp would have learned its lession from the Harrier that the F-35 does not
preformed like the Hornet or the super hornet. The navy made a VERY Good dicision on getting the Super Hornet. The F-35 is costing alot of money and will not perform like the hornet. At this rate the F-22 Rapor
is a better aircraft at a lower cost to the taxpayers..The Marine Corp is wasting there money on the F-35.
Plus once these aircraft comes out it will me old news/outdated aircraft before its comes out in service.
With out NO Field Tech Rep’s support it will not work, they tryed that with the hornet and it didn’t work. In closing the F-35 is one crappy plane for the price.

This was the arguement used to avoid putting a gun on the F-4. As long as politicians insist on visual identification of targets, the “dog-fight” will continue to be a mainstay of air-to-air combat. The problem with engagements beyond visual range is the possibility of shooting down the wrong target.

I thought the Marine Corps need was for a VSTOL aircraft to support their inland operations once they breach the beach head. The F-22 wouldn’t be around in that scenario, but the F/A-18 would. Are you also suggesting the Marines give up their own close air support and make the Navy do its job?

Good Morning Folks,

To Tony C. I beg to disagree with you on the abilities of the F/A-18EF. The most capable of the Chinese/Indian/Russian Naval fighter is the Mig 29, currently flown by Russia and India. The Chinese still flay the older Su.-27/Su.33M in the Naval interceptor role. The current Chinese J-10 both A and B models are Chinese reversed engineered Su’27/Su-33, with a lot of help from Israeli engineers.

The USMC and the USN regularly fly and train against the Mig-29 most from the Malaysian AF, the Malaysian AF in terms of the numbers of pilot hours in the cock[it is the most capable of the pilots flying the Mig-29 including the Russians and Indians. Regular annual exercised take place in both the SouthEast Asia and in the United States.

The US’s F/A-18EF’s consistently win in these competitive games.

Currently and into the future the Mig-29 is the Naval interceptor of The Russian Federation and India. China is still with the earlier generation Su-27/Su-33M technology. To contend that the USN/USMC will be out gunned in the Western Pacific is pure folly.

The F-22 is not a Naval interceptor and is unlikely with the current land basing arrangements in the Western Pacific to play any future combat role in that theater. The F-22’s new role according to recent “official” AF documents is that of a “Sovereignty Fighter”. In short it will follow airliners round the US and Alaska. You can’t really be sure whose side those Canadians will be on in the future, and the are flying CF-18’s, as for Mexico?

Both the F-22 and the F-35 are both very expensive “mistakes”. Neither have a role in the current wars and a lot of people are desperately trying to fined an air combat mission in the future where they may play a part.

Taxpayer. Most of your question can’t be answered because weapons development is highly classified. Some clues we do have though are rather interesting. The Navy is increasing it’s combat radius of the Carrier Battle Group out to 1000Km., Radar is rapidly being replaced by sensors, non-kinetic air to air warheads have been used with success in combat, UUV’s with hydrogen fuel (like the German U-212/214’s) cells have been successfully tested and are moving on to the next phase of development, UAV’s for carriers the USMC’s Hunter UAV is already carrier qualified. the Avengers when it come to the fleet will be a carrier aircraft, the X-37 is in full scale testing as a carrier aircraft is in final test right now, the half scale passed all its test four years ago, this is just what we know.

The load of crap being dumped into the media by The heritage Foundation and by Mark Helprin of The Claremont Institute is nothing more then lobbying the public with fear with unsupported and erroneous assumptions that break down when investigated, these “Think Tanks” are nothing more then drumming up business for their paying customers the Defense Industries.

Byron Skinner

Byron Skinner with more ridiculous anti-air exaggerations. The F-35 can’t take on old MiG-29s, while the F/A-18 can? That’s a ridiculous thing to say given that the F-35 has AESA radar and stealth capability. I’d also like to see this supposed official document that states that the F-22 will be used just to escort civilian airliners around in Canada, and will be used only for that. Which is also ridiculous since they’re adding more air-to-ground updates to the plane.

Checking in every so often. I reiterate to new readers to pay no attention to Skinner. Regulars should know this by now. Byron: you’re getting sloppy with your typing and grammar, which reflects badly on the self-taught.

Good Evening Folks,

First off I never said the F-35 can’t take on the Mig-29, how would I know its not been build yet. My point that you didn’t grasp is that we can already do this with the F/A-18EF and the Mig-29 is the best naval fighter that either the Russians/Indians/Malaysians have. The Chinese are at least a generation behind that.

The F/A-18EF has proven it is superior to the Mig-29. The yet to be made F-35 has proven nothing. Even its much bragged about EO/TR targeting system has been surpassed by the SAR/GMTI imaging/targeting system that now has over a 100 hours in Afghanistan quote: “…imagery at slant ranges are well beyond the effective range of the Lockheed Martin EO/TR…the SAR/GMTI scanner can detect moving vehicles from a 180 degree field.” I think that by the time any F-35 becomes operational in ay variant the EO/TR will be sitting on a museum shelf along side the Norton Bomb Sight.

Since our current enemies have no radar, the Russian and Chinese Radars have yet to present any challenge to US air power the issue of stealth seems to be rather mute. As a serving Naval officer/pilot said awhile back the turning on any air defense radar against the Americans is an act of suicide.

As for the F-22 doing the ground mission, that idea has already been sh** canned by the AF. Even the Air Force can see the stupidity of sending a $150 million aircraft with a pilot where a UAV at about $12 million will do just fine.

To hitch hiker. Since being critical of my spelling, grammar and typing is the best you can that strongly indicates you don’t have a thing to say.

By the time the F-35 becomes operational all it’s current state of the art systems will become museum pieces.

Byron Skinner

That train of thought no longer applies today. The most recent air engagements starting from the First Gulf War in Iraq were mostly beyond visual range. Mock air battles being as realistic as can be often reflect the same experiences we’ve had since those conflicts, with dog-fights with cannons being rare (though still often enough to warrant keeping guns on aircraft). Most visual-range fights are won not with the gun, but with short-ranged IR missiles such as the AIM-9X. And mock battles where both aircraft are equipped with high off-boresight missiles result in mutual suicide, despite a disparity in maneuverability (as in with the F-15 vs F-16).

Our current air-to-air doctrine no longer warrants limiting engagements to visual range confirmation in wartime. During peacetime visual range confirmation must be made if radio confirmation, via transponder or verbal, cannot be made.

IFF (Identification of Friend or Foe) technology has made leaps and bounds since the Vietnam War, which was why visual range confirmation was needed during that conflict.

Byron.… every time you post anything about aircraft, I can always find something technically incorrect. And not something minor, either. It’s as if you’re purposefully posting misinformation to further your grudge against the Air Force.

The EOTS (not EO/TR) has a greater than 180-degree field of view. Have you even seen what it looks like mounted on an F-35? You speak of SAR/GMTI as if it’s a new thing. It’s been around for decades. It’s not even the same comparable thing to EOTS. You probably don’t even know how EOTS or SAR/GMTI works. Which, by the way, SAR/GMTI is used with EOTS through the F-35’s radar.

SAR/GMTI combines Synthetic Aperture Radar and Global Moving Target Indicator technologies… both are radar technologies.

SAR technology uses radar to create high-resolution images.… all the high-resolution photos you’ve seen of the surface of celestial objects such as planets are all taken with SAR technology. We’ve had SAR technology since the 1950’s and have been using the technology on tactical aircraft (such as the SR-71 and U-2) since the 1980’s. The F-35’s AN/APG-81 AESA radar has SAR capability, as do all US fighter-based AESA radars… including the first-generation fighter-based AESA radar, the AN/APG-63(v)2 radar mounted on some F-15C’s.

GMTI, Ground Moving Target Indicator takes advantage of the Doppler effect to distinguish ground clutter. Which by the way, you may have heard of “look-down, shoot-down” radars… a breakthrough in fighter radar technology that’s been around for over 40 years and has been a standard feature on fighter-based radars since. The F-15A was introduced with this capability in 1972.

So we’ve already been using SAR/GMTI technology on our current frontline fighters for decades. And guess what? The AN/APG-81 AESA radar that the F-35 uses is SAR/GMTI capable. The EOTS is a separate technology altogether that’s used in conjunction with the AN/APG-81. EOTS offers the same capabilities as the Sniper ATP: FLIR receiver, CCD TV camera with downlink capabilities and laser designator all combined in a stealthy package that is better integrated into the entire aircraft’s avionics suite.

Addition to the last paragraph: The AN/APG-70 was introduced as a redesigned AN/APG-63 (which already included GMTI capability) that included SAR capability in the 1980’s for use on the F-15C and F-15E Strike Eagle.

Anyways, the point of all that technical mumbo-jumbo was to, yet again, further prove that Byron Skinner has no idea what he’s talking about.

Only information I could find for the F-22 being a Sovereignty Fighter was for use by the Air National Gaurd which would only be concerned about air threats. However that was shot down.

What X-37 are you refering to? The only one iknow of is the Boeing X-37 but I highly doubt that will be carrier based as it is an unmanned orbital test vehicle.

Good Morning Folks,

You technical argument is not with me you might want to see a DoD Document dated 5/13/10 which I quoted. You can take it with with the DoD, oh, I guess you can’t because they want you name and E-Mail address.

To. Michael. Ooops, you caught me, it isthe X-47 I was referring to. But I think you already knew that. Just the same you can put a gold star on your bulletin board, do you have anything. Other then the gotcha do you any thing to contribute to the discussion?

Byron Skinner

“First off I never said the F-35 can’t take on the Mig-29, how would I know its not been build yet.”

Funny Byron. Just a few posts ago you said this:

“The F-35 really doesn’t fill the needs that the F/A18EF fills. It’s a single pilot aircraft, single engine aircraft, and definitely not an air superiority fighter that could take on the Mig 29’s”

So which one is it? And if the F-35 does anything close to what they’re designing it to do, it will mop the floor with MiG-29s. Not that the nonexistent enemy naval fighter threat is the main purpose of carriers. Carriers are for power projection and the F-35 can fly further than the Hornet, stealthily.

“As for the F-22 doing the ground mission, that idea has already been sh** canned by the AF. Even the Air Force can see the stupidity of sending a $150 million aircraft with a pilot where a UAV at about $12 million will do just fine.”

Funny, because the USAF is giving the F-22 a whole bunch of air-to-ground upgrades (Increment 1). And what is this $12 million UAV that you’re talking about? A Reaper, with a cruising speed below 200 mph and a max speed of about 300 mph, which is not stealthy, has no way to defend itself, and is limited to 500 lb. bombs, will cost about that much.

Increment 3.1, I meant to say.

Why don’t you post the title of this supposed DoD document? If you’re able to quote excerpts from it then it must be an unclassified document that is publicly available.

Referring to some ambiguous “DoD document” might work on your average citizen that doesn’t know much of the military, intimidating them with a hint that you might be referring to some classified document. But I know better than that.

Although I agree with your assessment on the future of remote control aircraft; I can’t blame the DOD for hedging their bets. What if the enemy develops the ultimate communications scrambler? They might not even be able to control UAV/UCAV platforms from space, if the Chinese/Russians develop a space based electronic warfare apparatus.

I bet if you asked a pilot, he would nix the idea of no gun. Perhaps a gun pod could be attached or placed in the weapons bay of stealth aircraft, for example. But history has shown over and over again, the need to spit bullets in dog fights. What are you going to do when you run out of missiles and are still confronted with enemy aircraft — some of which are now stealthed, and may only be detected by eyeballing!

Brand new ECM suite on all F18E-F’s as well as upgrades to older C’s & D’s

The bloc 4 & 5 E&F’s are going to be so awesome they may reconsider the JSF

Excellent article and discussion gentlemen!

They should either buy enough E/F models to replace the older C/D variants or just stick to the plan of buying the F-35C to replace the regular Hornets.

One problem is that our military leaders have taken the approach that technology is the key to winning wars. Problem is some of that technology is not reliable. Want to see a good example. The Air Force has tried to kill the A-10 several times and wants to replace it with a A-16. That’s right, a modified version of the F-16 with a 30mm gun pod! The F-15 which is undefeated in air to air combat could benefit from a program that NASA ran which fitted with with forward canards and 2D thrust vectoring. It still would have lacked super cruise and the stealth capability, it could have given us more time to perfect the technology and bring the price down.

yes after i think about it, you could be right? if they don’t have another air 2 air fighter project in the black? we w/ be out gunned again!

hello, i hate to chime in the mist of such great discussion/or battle ? but i was wondering if anyones heard about new radar/missile technology that could be used to upgrade a new model of f-22 /and others? and i know this is a silly question, do u think the u.s goverment has a manned fighter plane black program on going ?

The AIM-120D is the latest variant that just entered production with a 50% range increase over the AIM-120C-7, bringing it to a range of about 180 km (dependent on airspeed, altitude difference, and heading of the target). Note that AMRAAM stands for Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AIM-54 (which was only carried by the F-14) was considered a long ranged missile, with a range of about 190 km. So now the latest AIM-120D has a range that is closer to what used to be considered “long range.”

The AIM-120 is slated for service for the next couple decades until the Joint Dual Role Air Dominance Missile (probably currently exists only on paper, PowerPoint, and blueprints) begins to enter service. Even when the JDRADM enters service, the AIM-120D will slowly be phased-out. Back in 2008 Lockheed Martin, ATK and Northrop Grumman announced a partnership for their bid for the JDRADM project, I haven’t heard of a second team to compete just yet.

As for a black fighter project.… well these things have a tendency to stay hidden for at least a decade. Besides, with all the fallout from the F-22 and F-35 projects.… right now would NOT be a good time to announce the existence of such a project.

Contrary to growing popular belief, the current USAF leadership does not want to go to an all-unmanned fighter force. General Norton Schwartz recently wrote in the Air Force’s Strategic Studies Quarterly the pitfalls of going into an all-UAV force, particularly with a huge vulnerability to jamming. He also noted that Israel also expressed the same concerns, and that a mixed fighter force of both manned and unmanned is in call for. The idea being that the manned fighters would take lead while the unmanned fighters merely support and augment the manned fighters.… because physically being there has a higher situational awareness, whereas being behind a computer screen there is sort of a “disconnect” with reality.


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