How To Shrink Fighter Gap

How To Shrink Fighter Gap

There is a pretty wide divergence out there on how big the much discussed Navy-Marine Corps strike fighter gap may turn out to be.

The Navy’s head of aviation programs, Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, recently told reporters that his worst case projections put the shortfall at about 177 aircraft peaking in 2017.

Yet, by tweaking “mitigation levers” — which includes how long older versions of the F-18 continue to fly, the delivery rate of new Super Hornets, how soon F-35s can begin to roll off the production line in large numbers and the demand from combatant commanders for carrier strike – that shortfall can be reduced to about 100 aircraft, he said.

Even that potential shortfall is nothing to get excited about, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a speech earlier this month: “Should we really be up in arms over a temporary projected shortfall of about 100 Navy and Marine strike fighters relative to the number of carrier wings, when America’s military possesses more than 3,200 tactical combat aircraft of all kinds?”

Not surprisingly, lawmakers disagree, both with the Navy’s numbers and Gates’ dismissal of the gap. In their write up in the 2011 defense budget, the House Armed Service Committee said the Navy’s strike fighter gap could be as large as 250 aircraft by 2017. In order to reduce the looming shortfall, the HASC moved money from other accounts in the budget to add eight more F-18 E/F Super Hornets to the bill.

The HASC also asked the Congressional Budget Office to look at possible plans, and their costs, that could reduce the shortfall. CBO obliged, and came up with four options.

Those options consists of different combinations of: extending the service life of F/A-18A-D Hornets to 8,600 hours (adding roughly two additional years of operation) through minor structural repairs and more frequent inspections, known as the high-flight hour (HFH) program; or, do a more costly service life extension program (SLEP) to reach 10,000 flight hours; or, buying more Hornets.

Before looking at the various alternatives, let’s look at CBO’s shortfall projections. The current Navy-Marine tactical aircraft fleet totals about 1,100 aircraft. CBO forecasts that number to drop to about 800 aircraft in 2020 as older Hornets and Harriers are retired before rebounding through 2025 as JSFs come on line. The current Navy plan is to replace all of the older model Hornets (640 A-D models) and Harriers (150 aircraft) with 515 Super Hornets and 680 F-35B/C JSFs.

CBO’s alternatives:

Alternative 1: Do the HFH minor repairs and inspection on the 509 suitable Hornets; at a cost of around $2.2 billion. This option would increase the number of aircraft by 71 over the 2011–2025 time frame.

Alternative 2: Do the HFH repairs and inspection on 220 Hornets and the more costly SLEP on 289 Hornets; at a cost of about $7.7 billion. This option would increase the inventory by 135 aircraft from 2011 to 2025.

Alternative 3: Do the HFH repairs and inspection on 509 Hornets and buy 126 more Super Hornets (beyond the 515 planned buy) and decrease the buy of Joint Strike Fighters by 93 between 2018 and 2023. The downside of this option is that it would increase costs by up to $11.3 billion in the short term, out to 2015. However, because it reduces the JSF buy, it’s only an increase of about $4.8 billion over the current plan in the longer term out to 2025. It would increase the number of Navy tactical aircraft by 174.

Alternative 4: Modify 509 Hornets through HFH and purchase 126 more Super Hornets, but don’t reduce the JSF buy. This is the most expensive option at about $12.6 billion. It would also net the most aircraft, increasing the total inventory by 191 above the projected shortfall; the total inventory would remain above 1,000 aircraft between 2011 and 2025.

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What Fighter Gap? We have more fighters in the Navy them most countries do in their AF? Why do we keep using “FIGHTER GAP” as a legit term?

Barry will do anything to cut america down to size as trained by his mentor of 20 years usofkkka jerimiah wright.

Fortunately people are beginning to see how Barry truly hates america and those who defend her.

Option 5 :

Stop Apending billions for 99 weeks of unemployment for barrys lazy supporters.

We aren’t most countries pennst98, our requirements are our own.

Ok, point to william. But isn’t this just creating illusionary / arbitrary requirements and then screaming we don’t have enough XXXX to fufil those requirements??

DOW, a personal thanks for keeping off topic and completely looney. You truely put the @ss in dumb@ss. What you lack in intelligence, wit, or even self respect you more than make up for in consistantly suggesting the President hatres of America and whatever your point is regarding Jerimah Wright in every post.

Sadly, decreasing the very expensive carrier force isn’t one of the options.


And as usual, your comments to DOW certainly have raised the IQ level of this conversation.

Can we get back to talking about Mr. Grants article now?

We have taken it upon ourselves to be the first responders for every international crisis. I see some advantages there but it is pretty expensive. Can we afford to be ready to fight in two theaters at the same time, and be able to respond to an earthquake simultaneously?

We need to try to draw out more contributions from Saudi Arabia, etc! Perhaps if we cooperate with Iran at an international emergency (tsunami??) we might build quiet cooperation???

The contractor’s requirement is just to buy more super-hornets.
William hasn’t met a waste of money he doesn’t endorse.

And what wastes of money in your eyes do I endorse Oblat? I am undecided on the whole additional Super Hornet issue for your information.

Not that I’m against the carriers, but maybe the discussion to decrease its number to 9 or 10 is valid. It will cut costs and shorten the shortfall of fighters.

I think alternative 3 will be the best option. If I should gues the JSF will be cut in numbers anyway (wich mean the price will go up of course). In the end this will be the most effective answer.
And the Super Hornet will give the Navy a very good aircraft.

If we have short falls in regional troop levels we share the battlefield with allies. As it is full size nuclear carriers aren’t something we can rely on our allies to supplement our capabilities.

When it comes to carriers people talk about how it would get cheaper to cut carriers, but they rarely consider that in removing a carrier a number of its capabilities would need to be taken up by several smaller ships that could never perform as well.

I understand that, no navy (or airforce for most of the countries) has the potential of a carrier or group of carriers. It’s really a matter of strategical choices. Where does the US want to be, everywhere or maybe a bit less. If the US closes down 1 theater (not a quick solution, I know) does it then really need 11 carriers.
What I wanted to point out that there are more options to address the problem of the fighter gap. As always there isn’t only one option/solution.

We do not need to decrease the carrier force. Our sailors spend enough time deployed, we don’t need the whole air wing at sea 6 months out of every year becuase of a decreasing number of flattops.

With F-35 going so perfectly why would we even consider alternatives? Certainly the performannce to-date speaks for its self.

This whole situation seems to be a replay of what happened in the 60’s . The ill-fated F-111 ” fighter for all services” that was a failure in that aspect. I see the same thing with the F-35 . Putting all your hopes on one plane is going to be a huge mistake. All you have to do is look at history to see how these things always turn out. The other mistake in my opinion is putting all the weight on the Hornet. Its a complex issue and I see bad days ahead for the Navy until it gets sorted out.

Guilty as charged, however i’m sick of this moron posting on here with nothing more than drivel and right wing talking points.

The carrier and combat aircraft shortfall is relative. If you have four footprints (Western Pacific, Eastern Pacific, Atlantic, and Mediterranean/Indian Ocean) and three carriers rotating in each footprint (one deloyed for six months; one just back and undergoing major repair/personnel downtime and PCS; one workin gup for deployment), that means 12 carrier battle groups. If you revert to a philosophy of the Fleet Response Plan (FRP) created a few years ago, you keep four carriers deployed and have another three in a constant ready-to-deploy status, rather than “turning them off” for a few months every other year. That means we could get along with about 7 to 9 rather than 11 or 12. Which, in turn, means there is no combat aircraft shortfall.

I like the way you think Taxpayer. The FRP method seems the way to go and we need to place more responsiblity on our allies. There’s a lot of water out there and we are policing too much of it today.

Another good point mentioned by Karl. As with the Harrier force some time ago. What will it mean to the navy if the F-35 (or the Super Hornet) will be grounded for 2 month. Multiple type of aircraft then makes sense.
It is (also) my opinion that an airforce/navy cannot afford to put everything on 1 type. As with the F-111, you will have one aircraft doing everything very nice, but not excellent.
Maybe the F-35 can do everything on a excellent scale, but only for the price of $200M a piece.

I still stand with alternative 3. Get the Super Hornet and cut some F-35.
And start with new spec’s for an attack aircraft and a air superiority type (a follow through of the F-22?)

yawn — sticks and stones…

Address barry’s 20 year relationship with such a racist America hater as J wright,etc…

Alternative 5: USN change IOC requirement to accept Block II F-35C. Increase & accelerate F-35C & F-35B buy.

New Quote:
“We ought to be given the opportunity to demonstrate we can perform on this program,” Stevens said.

Gee, I wonder what the $40B spent since October 2001 was for?

Most comments on how there are alternatives seem valid but probably would not bring as much of our tax dollars to the “military-industrial complex (anybody have enough sense of history to remember Eisenhower’s warning?).
Maybe this is more of a perceived need to fully equip all existing squadrons and carriers. Maybe we don’t truly need all these squadrons and carriers if this hardware performs as super-well as is claimed.

Have you ever been assigned to a carrier? I would properly say not. You would know that the crew needs down time if you had such a tour of duty. Do you work 24/7 year round? I think not.

Government officials in Washington D.C. take vacations/party. They need to stay in Washington to “lead by example” and work. I remember leaving the Navy with over 70 days of leave on the books because there was no time to use them.

I want the best for our fighting men and women. No body knows what they will be up against the future. Don’t make comments unless you have been on the front lines making decisions with people’s lives.

Only a few decades ago we had 15 full sized carriers along with a nearly 600 ship Navy. We can certainly maintain 11 and 300 ships! We need to stop this “lets just cut one more…” line of thinking.

Enter text right here!Modified Advanced Fighter Aircraft

Air superiority

F-15 — M Eagles

F/A-18 — M Super Hornets

As a euro with no say at all but just thinking out loud.

I’d say option 2: Save as much money here and now while you’re engaged in Irak and Aghanistan while the SLEP programme will give a certain flexibility down the line.

Maybe later give the superhornets a SLEP then too or buy more of those.

Gives more options later and by 2017 I sure do hope the F35 kinks are worked out (since supposedly we here in DK will be buying them too).

As a Vet of the Missle Gap, and others of similar ilk, the Term “Gap” always comes out as a cover for more Dollars being allocated to a specific industry, in a Congressional District.
Now. The actual USMCC USN differential of aircraft use, is backstopped by the Desert Storage of useful, when reenovated, aircraft. We have a plethora of aircraft. It is the duty and responsibility of the Uniformed Managers to get the Right Stuff to the Right Place on time and in quantity. They get paid well for this.
It is not easy, nor is it fun. But the Logistics of War, IE Beans, Bullets, POL, is always the sinew that makes a winner.
Semper Fi
We WILL Prevail

The term “Fighter Gap” here indicates the number of deploy able fighter squadrons that support the current sea/shore rotation in the existing carrier air wings. A short fall in squadrons means there are fewer aircraft deployed with any one carrier or a squadron has a very short down cycle. Either change has consequences in the capabilities of the US Navy carrier plans and deployments. Short down times result in poor morale in the fighter squadrons and shorting the carrier of deployed aircraft degrades readiness and capabilities. The result of either is more stress on the existing airframes as they a used more hours then intended.

Even that potential shortfall is nothing to get excited about, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a speech earlier this month: “Should we really be up in arms over a temporary projected shortfall of about 100 Navy and Marine strike fighters relative to the number of carrier wings, when America’s military possesses more than 3,200 tactical combat aircraft of all kinds?”

Well I don’t know if I am misreading your post but IMHO you can’t just dust off the old planes: F/18, F/14, F/15, F/16 and F/4’s.

Some of them weren’t build to carrier use but more importantly pilots have to be recertified and trained again. Allready I don’t think there are many F/14 qualified pilots left even worse with F/4’s which the F/14 replaced in 70’s right?

The F-4 is an example of a multi role, multi service airframe that was very successful.

Or just cut two carriers, that we don’t need, and the “fighter gap” disappears, along with other budget and manpower problems.

And who says we don’t need those two carriers? Five years down the road should we cut another carrier we “don’t need” in order to counteract all of the spending on social programs? What about another five years after that? This line of thinking will ruin the Navy.

We should be building the next Generation of Carriers.

But that won’t happen. Obummer want’s to cut the Military.

Obummer wants us to be weak. He probably learned it from Jerimiah Wright.

Dirty Little Secret: our CVN’s are paper tigers without long-range heavy USAF tankers. CVN’s don’t send any of their F-18’s into Afghanistan or deep inside Iraq without some serious, prolonged aireal refueling from huge USAF tankers. So, when the Air Force eventually retires all their ancient Tankers, while only replacing a handful of them, then CVN’s become obviously nothing more than showboats. And please don’t think using carrier based “tankers” will replace land-based USAF tankers for long range power projection. That won’t work. CVN’s are fairly short legged especially Hornets, even when you hang four or five huge external fuel tanks on them. BTW, Hornets are subsonic with all those giant tanks hanging all over them. But CVN’s surely make great Calendar photo’s.

Well there are a few solutions. Either better standoff weapons or refueling with navy tankers. Say maybe both on the outtrip and home trip.

That the hornets are subsonic doesnt matter that much.

I agree that it’s a bandaid though.

To place more responsibility on you allies, the US needs to clear its mind. You can’t put the EU air forces in a slave position with the cost of JSF, prevent France to sell out the Rafale (Carrier capable) to keep on knowledge on in that navair matters, and then ask for more responsibilities on your allies.…
UK & FR are US Allies, try to help them to built real carrier air wings and 2 carriers (catapult) in each country. What do you want? EU slaves ? Or reponsible allies ?. Make your mind! Your industry prevent your politician to think strategically. The world is still uncertain and the US need other allies than ISR

With the F-18 line still up and running it seems to me the obvious solution is to produce more F-18’s. This is a more effective use of the money. SLEPing older aircraft works but perpetuates the weaknesses of the earlier aircraft and costs a significant portion of the cost of a new aircraft. We might also find we would need fewer of the much more expensive F-35’s. It needs to be remembered we are on the edge of a time when aircraft costs may be reduced by removing the pilot from the aircraft. By 2030 we may not need F-35’s.
As for reducing the number of carriers—-I hope that never happens. The mechanics of deploying carriers (refueling, and refitting) makes the number we have now the ideal number. We need to get to the next generation of carrier as quickly as possible.

The best option is speed up the F-35 line. It will do a lot more than the F-18’s, including the G’s and with one pilot.

VISION ??? Leadership ? Foresight ? How come no one in DoD, USN or USAF has thought of developing a truly long range fighter / bomber ? One that doesn’t need a giant TANKER on the flight into AFGHAN and another long TANK on the way out ? I realize F-22 seems to have “long legs” relative to F-18 and that F-35 is hopefully similar in range to F-22, ( maybe ?? who knows ?). But, does DoD have anything truly LONG RANGE even on the Drawing Board ? You know, capable of taking off for example in Diego Garcia, flying over Afghanistan, spending some time on station, and returning to Diego Garcia, with no more than one (or preferrably none ) aireal refueling ? What good are fighter bombers that are tethered to giant TANKERS especially ancient ones ? Where do all these enormous Tankers operate out of anyway ? Wouldn’t the enemy simply take them out near battle kick-off time ? Or have terrorists blow them up on the ground in whatever foreign airstrip they operate from ? defense acquisition .… can we get our taxpayer money refunded for the past 20 years ?

The F-35 should have a respectable range due to it’s impressive fuel capacity. The F-35A carries over 2.5x the amount of internal fuel as that of a USAF F-16C. The F-22A also has excellent range by nature of it’s design. Yet these aircraft are still rather short legged compared to large fighter-bombers (like the F-111) and some subsonic attack aircraft (like the old A-6.)

In my opinion the USAF needs a true F-111 replacement rather like the FB-22 or FB-23 proposed by Lockheed and Northrop respectively for a “regional bomber” requirement. The ill-fated A-12 was supposed to provide a medium attack aircraft to replace the A-6, but that program and it’s successor A-X (later A/F-X) were canceled. It is likely that F/A-XX will have significantly greater range than current designs, but we won’t see that fighter until 2025 at earliest.

Perhaps decades from now when the services are looking at new fighters, they should consider the concept of larger, long range, two-seat “strategic fighters.”


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