Skip to comments.The U.S. Navy Struggles to Keep Hornets Flying While the F-35 Stalls
Posted on 01/05/2016 9:47:28 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
Faced with delays in the adoption of the F-35, the U.S. Navy is trying to keep F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet fighters flying until replacements arrive. According to Military Times, the service is stretching the lifespan of existing planes, keeping them in the air far longer than originally planned.
The U.S. Navy's F/A-18C Hornets comprise half of the fighter force on a typical Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. These older Hornets, known as "legacy Hornets" to differentiate them from the Super Hornet, were only meant to fly an average 6,000 hours.
Generally speaking, this works out to about 20 years of peacetime flying. The problem? Most of the "legacy Hornets" were bought in the 1980s, making them roughly 30 years old. The period from 1991 to 2015 also have seen a higher operating tempo than expected, with an nearly continuous stream of wars, peacekeeping missions, no-fly zones, and punitive actions requiring air power.
The Navy plans to replace legacy Hornets with the carrier version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighterâa process that should have started three years ago. The Navy was originally supposed to declare the F-35C ready for combat in 2012.
Unfortunately, the F-35 is running the better part of a decade behind schedule, and Initial Operating Capability, as the combat ready status is known, has been pushed that back to 2018 or even 2019.
Now, the last of the legacy Hornets is expected to be retired in 2022, and even that date could be pushed back by delays in the F-35 program (and government funding) staying on track.
As a result, the Navy is planning on extending the service lives of legacy Hornets to 10,000 hours. Although build for 6,000 hours, the airframes have been tested out to 10,000. Beyond that, safety becomes a real issue.
The other half of a carrier's fighter force are the newer F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. Super Hornets were also originally rated for 6,000 flying hours and will also be increased to 10,000 hours. The Super Hornet will not be replaced by the F-35 but rather so-called "sixth generation" fighter, the F/A-XX future fighter, to differentiate it from the 5th generation F-35. That won't happen until the 2040s, but the Super Hornets are already being flown longer and harder as older Hornets spend more time in repair depots.
In short, the Navy is counting on the Hornet to hold out longer than it was originally expected to, thanks mainly to the F-35's very, very slow development.
Could the F-22 be adapted for carrier use?
Could the F-22 be adapted for carrier use?
We're not making them anymore.
Not really, its way more than a tailhook.
I know that.
Damn good thing this didn’t happen in the run up to world war 2.(in some limited cases it did)A decade behind? That’s unreal.
Thanks. And probably too large, too.
I think the F-35 will go down as one of the worst mistakes ever. WTH, anyway.
They could open the line again and build F18s but they wouldn’t be able to spend the money like they can on newest and latest toys.the cost of reopening the line for the hornets would cost maybe what 2 or 3 f-35s cost now.
Can’t imagine its bigger than a 14. But the USAF is also wanting to buy 15s with a compatability pack so they can work well with 22s. And in WWII, someone could have navalized it somehow probably or built a similarly capable machine. Today that would take 20 years and cost half the defense budget.
The 35 is dismal and people are scrambling for solutions. And there aren’t enough 22s to go around.
The F-18E/F is still in production. Countries still buy them.
Thing is, the E/F ‘Super Hornet’ is actually much shorter legged and more IR-obvious than the prior versions.
Agreed as a terrible mistake. A monument to procurement chicanery and politics.
Not only can it not be adapted, not only do we not make any more, the tooling has been destroyed and it would take less effort to make a new aircraft design instead. No more F-22s will ever be forthcoming.
Good points. Thanks.
I know.I was talking about the first Hornets.More bang for the buck on the early birds.
It took a long while to bring the B-29 up to speed even though we spent about as much on it as the Manhattan Project. Then we had to figure out how to use the thing effectively. But I shutter to think of how the war would have gone in 1940 if the Germans had had a few hundred planes as good as the B-17.
That’s really a shame and criminal.
You know the P-40 wasn’t our best fighter at the start of ww2.However it was the only bird we had in large numbers and served very well till more advanced birds came into service.It was also serving with more air forces around the world than any other fighter in the war.THe Brazilians flew the p-40 till 1958and the dutch till 1948.The P-40 also had the most aces which was really easy because there was so many enemy aircraft early in the war.sorry for the highjack.
Problems with the early birds: No look-down shoot-down capability (won’t fit), no helmet display support (won’t fit) so no off-bore capability, no AESA support (won’t fit), has a huge RCS, no buddy refuel capability (the Navy no longer has KA-6 tankers.)
Unfortunately, what we have right now isn’t the equivalent of the P-40. What we have is the P-36, ugh.
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