Commander Naval Air Forces wants more F/A-18s

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ricnunes

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Unread post27 Apr 2018, 11:53

Yes, I also agree that what usnvo said makes sense.
I would say that this is by far the best argumentation in favor of the Super Hornet in this "F-35C versus Super Hornet" debate and the only one which IMO makes perfect sense.

Of course that with this, I'm not saying that I changed my mind that the US Navy is doing a right decision in giving a higher priority for new Super Hornets compared to new F-35Cs.
However and due to some/several reasons already discussed here (such as using the US Navy using Super Hornets as tankers), the US Navy put itself in a situation which basically lead to the situation which usnvo posted above. Basically, the US Navy "shot itself in the foot"... :roll:
A 4th/4.5th gen fighter aircraft stands about as much chance against a F-35 as a guns-only Sabre has against a Viper.
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Unread post27 Apr 2018, 12:04

What I and others have said on this thread that needs to be remembered: USN CVNs need to be modified in many ways to operate the F-35C. These modifications cannot be done on the fly or in a few weeks it seems. They are done in what is called (beats me) an 'availability period' (I guess available to be modified). Modifying carriers for new aircraft is not new. Every new carrier aircraft would require some carrier modification. The early Hornet had the carrier catapult beside the IFLOLS modified for example amongst other mods. So in the wider scheme of carrier mods F-35C mods are no big deal but the 'availability period' to do them is a big deal. It is obvious that as the aircraft are overused then so are the CVNs, repair/ mods take time when available. Airfields are easy - in one place & are HUGE - taking all kinds of mods with ease. :roll:
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popcorn

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Unread post27 Apr 2018, 12:30

The Navy is exploring keeping the USS Nimitz in service for around 5 years past it's FY2023 planned retirement date. If so, she could be one of the first in line to host F-35Cs having undergone mods to conduct the jet's at-sea testing.
"When a fifth-generation fighter meets a fourth-generation fighter—the [latter] dies,”
CSAF Gen. Mark Welsh
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Unread post27 Apr 2018, 12:47

Yes perhaps but I would guess (only my guess) that for operational purposes the F-35C secure spaces for briefing, particu-larly and mission planning are not yet in place (not needed just for F-35C simple testing at the time). Operational testing is another matter yet to be carried out on a specifically modified CVN (I forget which one at moment). Having the original NIMITZ soldier on after the initial fifty years would be terrific to also allow other CVNs some 'availability' time for mods.
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Unread post27 Apr 2018, 13:50

Yes, I'd expect a whole lot more mods to support an operational squadron or two.
"When a fifth-generation fighter meets a fourth-generation fighter—the [latter] dies,”
CSAF Gen. Mark Welsh
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Unread post27 Apr 2018, 20:34

usnvo wrote:The F-35C option is not as easy as you make it out.

Lets look at the first F-35C fleet squadron, VFA-147 as an example. In April 2018 they cease to fly the F-18 and commence transition training on the F-35C. All of their aircraft are sent to other squadrons so that part works. After several years of transition and training, they will finally begin operational deployment in 2021, three years later.


How can it take experienced pilots so long to transition to a brand new aircraft that by all accounts is easy to fly? By the end of 2012 the Navy should have had an actual production jet or two for their folks to start training with, nevermind test articles for their in training maintenance folks to be practicing with. For everything but carrier launch/landing, there should be no practical practice difference between F-35A and C - the systems are the same. What we're really saying here is that from 2012 until now, the Navy hasn't bothered to get its folks up to speed not only on an airframe they know is incoming, but an airframe that can replace their current junked/soon to be junked airframes.

So they roughly spend 2 years transitioning to the F-35C, training all the maintainers, retraining pilots, etc. During that time, they normally would have made at least one deployment that someone else has to pick up. That is fairly easy to absorb if there is a couple squadrons per year, but if you increase to say five squadons per year, you have 10 squadrons missing deployments or thinking another way, 2.5CVWs are sidelined! Not a problem if you have spare CVWs, but you don't.


I'm not saying go to 5 sqn/yr, unless LM goes to full rate production, there aren't even enough jets coming out of LM for that. The best they're going to get is like 1 sqn/yr. But at least that's 1 sqn of jets that have future relevance vs 1 sqn of jets that are already obsolete. That's also just 1 sqn/yr worth of pilots and maintainers that need to be trained, which means the next year it's only another 1 sqn/yr of pilots and maintainers that need to visit and train up alongside those pilots and maintainers (if necessary).

Beyond that, the throughput of the training world probably doesn't support that many people yet. You need experienced F-35C guys to become instructors to expand the training pipeline, but they haven't even been trained yet, let alone become experienced. Nor are there currently enough training jets or simulators.

Now none of this can't be resolved if you just have a few extra squadrons worth of people you can pull out of the fleet, but they don't exist and it takes years to either recruit and train them or lots of years if you are talking about pilots. Shoot, they are complaining about shortages now and increasing the transition just makes it worse. And, all of those bodies have to come from somewhere and those other communities, which are also short handed, don't want to give them up! The current transition is planned for, changing it will cause significant pain and suffering.


Oh, for sure. At the rate the Navy is going, in maybe 4-5 years they'll have 1 sqn turned up and another 130 -18E/F purchased that the taxpayer will be stuck with for another 30 years.

Now consider the impact of buying more F-18s. They arrive from the factory in a year or so and are immediately put to use enhancing the readiness of the force. No pilots to train, no maintainers to train, no schools to stand up, no impact on the fleet squadrons except less maintenance and higher readiness. It is like mana from heaven.


I completely understand this, and totally agree, it's an immediate solution to their used up airframe issue, alongside absolutely no training impact. But each and every one of these airframes purchased is literally a wasted purchase for expediency's sake. We're trading an $80M purchase of an obsolete aircraft to buy us availability for 2-3 years, but we're stuck with that aircraft for the next 20-30 years (unless we offload them to someone else, likely for a loss....hmm, maybe Canada? I only partially kid...) Do we plan to get into a war in the next 2-3 years with another near peer? The chance of that is pretty much zero, yet we're spending taxpayer dollars like it's a certainty we need to rush to mitigate.

That is not to say that the F-18 bubbas aren't the ones who caused the problem in the first place but that is why there is resistance to transitioning more squadrons to F-35C and the desire to get new F-18s.


And this really is my beef. We're essentially rewarding Navy with multiple wasted Billions of taxpayer provided bailout for their decisions. Why? So we can sail supercarriers around the world like they're free? Don't have the airframes? Guess you don't go sailing. Next time plan better. Instead, we're rewarding the bad decision making and absolute feet dragging adopting F-35C by throwing new -18E/Fs at the same exact people who put us into this situation. 2, 3, 4, 5 years from now, Navy will have 1 F'ing sqn of F-35C? Working on a second? WTF happens if we get into a near peer shooting war (the entire reason we spent so much money on this F-35 program...we sure don't need them to bomb people living in mud huts) and need pilots and maintainers trained up faster than the decade the Navy has decided to take? I'm only half joking when I say left up to Navy, we'll have F-35 replacement coming out by the time Navy has their last -18E/F's leaving the deck. And there'll be huge nailscratches all down the deck from prying them from Navy's cold dead hands...

P.S. My impatience isn't directed at you, I appreciate your well thought out reply. As a taxpayer, I just can't take the waste
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Unread post27 Apr 2018, 21:01

Yep as a 'nonUStaxpayer' it is certainly disappointing that the NavAvers of the USN did not 'smarten up' about all of this. Probably I'm more disappointed in the US Congress for 'sequestration' messing with any good plans the USN/USMC had.
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Unread post28 Apr 2018, 00:59

chucky2 wrote:How can it take experienced pilots so long to transition to a brand new aircraft that by all accounts is easy to fly?


It is not just the pilots and it is not just flying the aircraft. Some of the enlisted sailors are probably pushing two years in school. The schools are probably backlogged (the services did not buy enough spare parts, why would we be surprised if they didn't buy all the training materials, staff the schools, and buy the training aids on time). But beyond that, lets assume every pilot transitioning to the F-35C is a F-18 pilot since that is effectively the case. First, said pilots are currently short in the fleet, so you have to keep them in the F-18 as long as possible. Second, there are only a handful of aircraft available for training (Your idea on using F-35As may make sense to you but probably not to the USAF who is going through exactly the same problem). Then, they have to learn the aircraft, in an F-18 RAG, that takes something like 9 months. But wait, these are senior people who have to be tactically proficient and have enough time in the aircraft that they don't revert to prior experience. That takes lots of hours, and did I mention there are not many jets yet? That also applies to the RAG and fleet evaluation guys. Normally, they are fleet guys but now, there are no fleet guys yet so you are doubling or tripling up on all the training. On a new aircraft that is not fully reliable yet because people are still learning. Then they have to train at the squadron level, and then get integrated in the Air Wing. So yeah, 2 years is probably somewhat optimistic.

chucky2 wrote: That's also just 1 sqn/yr worth of pilots and maintainers that need to be trained, which means the next year it's only another 1 sqn/yr of pilots and maintainers that need to visit and train up alongside those pilots and maintainers (if necessary).


You are forgetting the Marine F-35C squadrons which might as well just be USN as they are integrated with the CVW. And those are higher priority than the USN since they fly F-18A-Ds. But, 1-2 a year is currently all that can probably be absorbed. First, because you may have to "Fight Tonight", but also because you have a bunch of other transitions going on. The F-35C is not even the Navy's most important program, that would be the P-8/MQ-4C. For that matter, it is not even number 2. So until the EF-18G, P-8/MQ-4C, and E-2D transitions are fully through, there is a shortage of bodies. Look at when the Navy start buying a lot more F-35C and they suspiciously correlate to when other programs are largely finished.

chucky2 wrote: Another 130 -18E/F purchased that the taxpayer will be stuck with for another 30 years... ... But each and every one of these airframes purchased is literally a wasted purchase for expediency's sake.


Not true, because the Block Is are probably already toast (and not just because of age, the Navy also pulled some really stupid operational things just because they had always done it that way that shortened their life). The additional aircraft will serve out the planned F-18E/F life times. Shoot, considering a depot level repair on a Block I would probably be $30-50m, they are not that expensive.

chucky2 wrote:Do we plan to get into a war in the next 2-3 years with another near peer? The chance of that is pretty much zero, yet we're spending taxpayer dollars like it's a certainty we need to rush to mitigate.


Well, I tend to agree with you but my vote doesn't count.

chucky2 wrote:
P.S. My impatience isn't directed at you, I appreciate your well thought out reply. As a taxpayer, I just can't take the waste


No problem. Sadly, the people making the decisions do not have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. They make the best decision they can based upon the constraints they are given at the time. And the results are not seen for years or even decades. I have a tremendous respect for the manpower bubbas and would not want their job. In my alternate world, the USAF would have bought about 300 AT-6s back in 2003 or so and all the services could have provided pilots to fly them and we could have saved a huge amount of wear and tear on our tactical fleet, saved a fortune in the process, and have already turned over most of them (and their missions) to the Afghans and Iraqis. But that is all water under the bridge.
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Unread post28 Apr 2018, 01:14

spazsinbad wrote:USN CVNs need to be modified in many ways to operate the F-35C. These modifications cannot be done on the fly or in a few weeks it seems. They are done in what is called (beats me) an 'availability period' (I guess available to be modified).


Availabilities are major industrial maintenance periods for the ship that can range in duration from six months or so up to four years for a refueling overhaul. The are scheduled every few years so you could probably do the work on the entire force in something like 5 years, assuming you had the resources (the Navy doesn't), a solid knowledge of everything that needs to be done (not that either) and a compelling reason to take resources vitally needed today for future aircraft upgrades needed sometime in the mid 2020s (three for three). So I would guess all the CVNs will get all the upgrades to launch and recover F-35s fairly quickly but the operational support part will be delayed until their CVWs have F-35Cs.
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Unread post28 Apr 2018, 01:20

:roll: My Navy - the RAN - called these 'availability periods' REFITs - end of. 8) Thanks for the info about how the CVN upgrades will go likely. In a pinch the special secure spaces could be organized however JPALS is probably mandatory for operations, with a good connection to ALIS and all the other comms which need upgrading (to get the COP common operating picture from aircraft to ship and to download mission data and suchlike).
Last edited by spazsinbad on 28 Apr 2018, 01:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post28 Apr 2018, 01:21

Wow, you had me going along with your rationale about manpower, resources, and training challenges (because those are real for all the services) but then you go off the deep end and blame it all on USAF who didn't take all those excess resources they had in 2003 (Manpower, money, and training capacity) and buy 300 AT-6s to solve all the Navy's problems. Just Wow....
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Unread post28 Apr 2018, 02:58

jbgator wrote:Wow, you had me going along with your rationale about manpower, resources, and training challenges (because those are real for all the services) but then you go off the deep end and blame it all on USAF who didn't take all those excess resources they had in 2003 (Manpower, money, and training capacity) and buy 300 AT-6s to solve all the Navy's problems. Just Wow....

You're missing his point. Given the permissive airspace in Afghanistan, the AT-6 could've flown most of the missions, saving the airframe life on the F-16s and F-18s. The CPFH savings could've easily paid for the fleet, and training.
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Unread post28 Apr 2018, 03:33

jbgator wrote:Wow, you had me going along with your rationale about manpower, resources, and training challenges (because those are real for all the services) but then you go off the deep end and blame it all on USAF who didn't take all those excess resources they had in 2003 (Manpower, money, and training capacity) and buy 300 AT-6s to solve all the Navy's problems. Just Wow....


You need to read what I said (well wrote and beyond the alternate reality with 20/20 hindsight part),
1. I didn't blame the USAF, I just assigned them to buy the aircraft. None of the services wanted to do something like that even if it was a logical thing to do in a Counter-Insurgency. In fact, it made no sense for any one service to do it without hindsight. It would have taken a directive from DoD to make it happen over the kicking and screaming of the services.
2. I would have taken resources from the Navy/USMC as well (might as well include Army and foreign nations too), and while I specifically mentioned pilots, I would include money and maintainers as well.
A. I would make up for this by grounding several squadrons (in all services, no free lunch for anyone)
B. Reduced deployments of other assets to the theater (since the driving force was supporting the ground troops (nothing wrong with this, just stating a fact). But really, is a B-1 needed to perform armed overwatch? Or an F-18? Or a F-15E? Even an A-10 is massive overkill. For the cost of keeping 4 F-16s or 4 A-10s airborne in the entire theater you could maintain something like 20 AT-6s airborne. And they don't need tankers, they have a spare seat for host nation personnel, they have longer endurance, rough field capable, etc.
C. My goal would be to transition the force to be owned and operated by the actual country. That is a basic tenant of Counter-Insurgency, not to just push them aside and ignore them until after you get tired of doing the heavy lifting.
3. Again, I don't blame any service for the decisions they made. The made what, at the time, was the best decision they could. The fact that there might (and it is just a hypothetical, people are free to disagree with me) have been a superior alternative is only in hindsight.
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Unread post28 Apr 2018, 04:07

spazsinbad wrote:Thanks for explanation 'usnvo'. You have a NavAv perspective from within the USN that I could never have. What you write makes sense. The USN NavAv is in a bind of their own making & their way out is as you describe in several posts here now.


The one common factor in just about every controversial or just plain stupid thing the Navy has done in the last few decades (mostly in retrospect, but some of them seemed pretty stupid at the time as well) is a desire to reduce manpower somewhere so you can use it somewhere else. There is never enough trained people and the ability to just snap your finger and make them appear is pretty minimal.
Revolution in Training and whatever they are calling it this time around
FORD Class (I actually agree with this one but it is a pretty complicated argument and there is much knee jerk reaction)
F-14 vs. F-18
Minimal Manning of ships
SWOS in a box
and the list goes on.
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Unread post28 Apr 2018, 04:19

Muffled heheh - funny you should mention that - somewhat related is this belated info from the 7th fleet about manning/ training and the whole nine yards: https://news.usni.org/2018/04/26/7th-fl ... -co-aucoin 26 Apr 2018

Training with simulators & LVC seems to be going well enough but not yet fully implemented with sims needing to be securely networked. The East Coast training ranges I think have new LVC capability (seen in video in LVC thread?). Some recent info: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=19021&p=391693&hilit=constructive#p391693
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Video with some LVC: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=19021&p=390718&hilit=constructive#p390718
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NAS FALLON: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=19021&p=389846&hilit=constructive#p389846
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