For the purposes of full disclosure, I have a duty to inform you all that I am a U.S. Navy (Reserve) F/A-18 Hornet pilot. And while some may remark of a bias because of that, please follow along and draw your own conclusions.
When I read the remarks of the current Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, to Congress about the impending Navy strike fighter shortfall, I couldn’t help but feel that the answer is staring us right in the face: the Navy needs to buy more Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as a stop-gap measure until Lockheed-Martin can deliver the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to the fleet.
Originally designed to serve for 6,000 flight hours, the Navy and Marine Corps’ Hornet fleet is well into its prime with over 62% of the fleet already beyond 7,000 flight hours. Instead of reconstituting the fleet with newer aircraft, the Navy has gone “all in” on the Joint Strike Fighter.
Jack argues for 36 more Supers. That’s a good start, but I’d really like to see a two year buy of 36 Supers each year. That covers the shortfall, covers attrition, and may even allow some of the very oldest legacy Hornets retire, all while buying just a bit of cushion for any more slippage in the F-35C program.
Seriously, the Navy has never had too many planes. And Congress is likely to be in a fairly giving mood, even in the face of very tight budgets.