Skip to comments.The endís in sight for the Super Hornet. Or is it?
Posted on 02/23/2012 7:55:31 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
The ends in sight for the Super Hornet. Or is it?
Boeings F/A-18E and F Super Hornets, and their forebears, have been part of U.S. naval aviation for so long its hard to imagine aircraft carriers without them. But under this months DoD budget submission, the Navy would accept its last new Superbug in only three years.
Big B announced on Wednesday that it had completed early delivery of the Navys second-to-last multi-year batch of Super Hornets and E/A-18G Growlers 257 airplanes and that its on the glide slope to continue right on through into the final multi-year. That would involve another 66 Es and Fs and 58 Gs, to be purchased through 2013. Under todays deals, including existing international orders, that would mean Boeing would deliver its last jet in 2015, said company spokesman Philip Carder.
But you dont get to be an aerospace titan by giving up that easily. A source with knowledge of the program tells DoDBuzz there could be opportunities for additional Super Hornets with the U.S. Navy and international customers, depending on the breaks.
Its very feasible: Boeing has made billions of dollars by exploiting delays in Lockheeds F-35, and DoD just pushed 179 of those outside its five-year defense plan. The Navy Department specifically dialed back its total order by 48 Cs and 21 Bs in this months budget submission. Presumably, that will only worsen its standing strike fighter shortfall. The exact numbers for that gap fluctuate with the phases of the moon, but the Navy said last year it was 65 airplanes. If the Navy really wants to keep 11 carriers and 10 air wings, it may need to order new jets to plug the gap.
Then theres the possibility for international orders: The Super Hornet is currently involved in competitions in Brazil, Malaysia, and countries in the Middle East. In addition to these countries, Boeing and our U.S. government customer are having discussions with numerous international military institutions and governments, Carder said.
Lockheed Martin and the worlds other big fighter vendors arent just standing still, however. They will scrap for as many of these competitions as they can, and as Indias selection of the Dassault Rafale showed, the Euro-firms can still play in the same league as the Americans.
F-35 boosters are working overtime to dispel the cloud that has surrounded their jet. We saw this week where the Royal Air Forces first test pilot loved the C, and Lockheed kept up the tempo on Thursday, announcing what it called a significant set of test milestones for so early in the year:
An Air Force A reached the F-35s highest altitude yet Jan. 9 when it cruised at 43,000 feet; an A did the first low approach with the Distributed Aperture System on Jan. 17; the A had its first night flight on Jan. 18; Secretary Panetta lifted the Bs probation on Jan. 20 almost a full year ahead of schedule, as Lockheed put it; the first test aircraft, AA-1, logged 2,500 flight hours Jan. 25; and an A flew with external weapons for the first time on Feb. 16 though it didnt fire any.
Overall, Lockheed said, As have flown 46 times so far this year; Bs have flown 45 times; and Cs have flown 23 times. The numbers and statistics are what they are Lockheed did not address the software issues Panetta mentioned several times last week to congressional lawmakers, or the Cs apparent need for rework on its arrester hook.
Bottom line: Everyone involved is keenly aware that this is a battle over a shrinking pool of money. Boeings argument is that the F-35 will never get here. Lockheeds is that its right around the corner. The Super Hornets survival or extinction and possibly that of the companies involved here will depend on the firms ability to make policymakers believe one pitch and not the other.
great posting, as usual
one question - what’s a ‘forebear’ ? ;)
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