Marines Moving To Composite Hornet Squadrons

Military aircraft - Post cold war aircraft, including for example B-2, Gripen, F-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale, and Typhoon.
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Corsair1963

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Unread post09 Jul 2019, 06:36

Marines Moving To Composite Hornet Squadrons Made Up Of F/A-18Ds And F/A-18Cs.

As the Legacy Hornet fleet is consolidated within the USMC, F/A-18Ds will be distributed to single-seat F/A-18C squadrons and vice-versa.

Single-seat F/A-18C Hornets have started appearing in Marine all-weather strike fighter squadrons, designated VMFA(AW)s, which have traditionally been equipped with two-seat F/A-18Ds. It hasn't been made clear exactly what is going on with what is truly an odd sight for military aviation aficionados to see—single-seat Hornets flying with the designations and motifs of famed two-seat VMFA(AW) squadrons. The War Zone was just as curious as anyone about the peculiar arrangement, although we had a good idea of how and why it came to be. But still, the move, if permanent, is a major one for the USMC and its four VMFA(AW) squadrons, so we reached out to the Corps to get the bottom line on just how extensive and long-lasting the new squadron structure may be. The information we received from our inquiry describes a far more widespread metamorphosis that is happening across the entire Marine Corps' Hornet enterprise.

Before we get to that, we need to make it clear that the two-seat Hornets in VMFA(AW) units are not trainers, they are fully missionized with their rear cockpits outfitted with interfaces and tactical displays for dedicated Weapon Systems Officers (WSOs) to use. Historically speaking, these unique squadrons, which are exclusively land-based, have taken on more complex missions, including the Forward Air Control (Airborne) role, as well as the tactical reconnaissance mission. The latter of which involves using the small number of specially modified F/A-18Ds—a dozen in total, three serving in each VMFA(AW) squadron—equipped with the Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS) in their noses.

The Marines' four VMFA(AW) units can still perform more traditional Hornet strike fighter missions, as well, and all weather deep strike is clearly also a part of their repertoire. Now, as the Navy divests much of its Legacy Hornet inventory, the USMC is getting an influx of very badly needed fresher F/A-18C airframes. This is a great thing for the Corps, but it has to be somewhat bittersweet for the VMFA(AW) squadrons who will no longer live by the long-standing two crew concept of operations that dates back half a century to early Marine A-6 Intruder operations.

Yet the changes as a result of this shuffling of assets aren't as simple as swapping out tired single-seat Hornets for less worn single-seat Hornets, or even porting over a single-seat Hornet to a VMFA(AW) squadron temporarily due to fleet management requirements, which has occasionally occurred with non-deployed units in the past. Here is what Captain Christopher Harrison, a Communications Strategy Officer for the Marine Corps Communications Directorate, shared with us about the changes to the aircraft inventories of VMFA(AW) squadrons:

"As the F/A-18 nears the end of its service life, the number of F/A-18Ds available in its inventory will start to equal the number of F/A-18Cs. Known as F/A-18 composite squadrons, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) commanders began placing F/A-18Cs in VMFA(AW) squadrons while at the same time introducing F/A-18Ds into VMFA squadrons. A mix of F/A-18Cs and F/A-18Ds provides the MAG with increased flexibility in resourcing squadrons while simultaneously spreading the more proficient mission skills associated with two-seat cockpits, such as an airborne forward air controller (FAC(A)), to more squadrons.

The F/A-18 community is comparable in readiness to the AV-8B community, and the materiel condition of the F/A-18D fleet is nearly the same as the F/A-18C fleet. However, as the Marine Corps progresses through the next decade, it will have a larger pool of low-flight-hour F/A-18Cs from the Navy as the F/A-18D reaches the end of its service life sooner.

The Marine Corps is not prioritizing F-35B/C replacement of the F/A-18D (or F/A-18C) over the AV-8B. In accordance with the 2019 Marine Corps Aviation Plan, we are replacing both F/A-18 and AV-8B squadrons concurrently, alternating back and forth between platforms over the next decade until the last AV-8B squadron transitions in Fiscal Year (FY) 2027 and the last F/A-18 squadron transitions in FY 2030. In any case, the F/A-18 will remain the primary TacAir bridging platform to the F-35B/C throughout this transition."


There is some big news in that statement. First off, the very idea of VMFA(AW) squadrons seems to be heading toward its demise within USMC as single-seat VMFA squadrons are also getting some F/A-18Ds redistributed to them as the fleet is consolidated. In addition, Captain Harrison adds further evidence to the notion that there is no prioritization for replacing either the Harrier or the Hornet first with new F-35s. It had been reported that the USMC would focus on replacing its aging Hornets before its AV-8B Harriers as the Harrier fleet had better longevity and readiness, not to mention the dozens of surplus Royal Air Force Harriers that the USMC bought for a laughably low sum largely as a spare parts bin. The Navy's move to buy more Super Hornets and divest the majority of its Legacy Hornet fleet has either upended this initiative or it hasn't ever been the plan to replace one type over the other, at least not in the last few years.

The only thing we don't know is where this leaves the USMC's tactical jet Weapons Systems Officers that have been a huge part of the VMFA(AW) community for decades. Will the Marines wind down that position entirely, putting pilots in both seats of F/A-18Ds as they get dispersed throughout the Marine Hornet community, or will they continue field WSOs, with each squadron with D models getting a number of them on hand?

We will reach out again to the USMC to try and clear this up, but regardless, it seems abundantly clear now that Marine Hornet squadrons are going to look increasingly diverse with single and two-seat models on-hand as time goes on. And we have to stress that the Legacy Hornet has many years of service ahead of it with the USMC, with current plans putting its out of service date around 2030. 98 of these aircraft are being deeply upgraded with new Active Electronically Scanned Array radars, along with other modifications, which will provide a huge leap in capabilities. It remains unclear if any of the F/A-18D fleet will be part of this upgrade, but having two crew available to work the new radar set—which can operate in multiple modes, such as air-to-air and air-to-ground, at the same time—is a big advantage.

So, even though it may be sad to see the unique identity of VMFA(AW) squadrons fade, the Marines' plan to squeeze the most out of the last of the Pentagon's front-line Hornets is pretty exciting.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/2 ... d-f-a-18cs
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blain

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Unread post09 Jul 2019, 23:18

At some point F-4s may come out of the boneyard.

This is the cost of STOVL. How many F-35Bs do the Marines really need? They seem to be preparing to repeat Guadalcanal's Henderson Field across the Western Pacific or wherever else they can. No one in Congress or OSD ever challenges them because they are the Marines.

If they stopped B procurement after they replaced all the Harriers in the inventory they would have more than enough STOVL fighters for its large deck amphibs and expeditionary bases. Then replace the Hornets with less expensive C models as the Navy ramps up purchasing of the F-35, bringing down the fly away cost for both the Navy and Marines. A volume purchase of the C by the Marines and Navy would come close to the AF's F-35A procurement. Maybe you wouldn't hit the under $80 million target of the A but it would sure be a lot better than what the Marines are currently paying for the B. In 2016 OSD estimated that the cost of the power plant and lift fan was more than double the cost of the engine for the A or C models.

Otherwise keep on paying a premium for as capability you will likely not use and trying to keep jets flyable condition which should be going to the boneyard.
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Unread post09 Jul 2019, 23:51

The only thing we don't know is where this leaves the USMC's tactical jet Weapons Systems Officers that have been a huge part of the VMFA(AW) community for decades. Will the Marines wind down that position entirely, putting pilots in both seats of F/A-18Ds....


That'll work real well. :shock:
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Unread post10 Jul 2019, 05:34

blain wrote:At some point F-4s may come out of the boneyard.

This is the cost of STOVL. How many F-35Bs do the Marines really need? They seem to be preparing to repeat Guadalcanal's Henderson Field across the Western Pacific or wherever else they can. No one in Congress or OSD ever challenges them because they are the Marines.

If they stopped B procurement after they replaced all the Harriers in the inventory they would have more than enough STOVL fighters for its large deck amphibs and expeditionary bases. Then replace the Hornets with less expensive C models as the Navy ramps up purchasing of the F-35, bringing down the fly away cost for both the Navy and Marines. A volume purchase of the C by the Marines and Navy would come close to the AF's F-35A procurement. Maybe you wouldn't hit the under $80 million target of the A but it would sure be a lot better than what the Marines are currently paying for the B. In 2016 OSD estimated that the cost of the power plant and lift fan was more than double the cost of the engine for the A or C models.

Otherwise keep on paying a premium for as capability you will likely not use and trying to keep jets flyable condition which should be going to the boneyard.


No, the USMC need a very large numbers of F-35B's. As it has considerable commitments across the globe in addition to just Big Deck LHA's/LHD's. Which, would carry more during war. Hell, in the future we will deploy a squadron or two on HMS Queen Elizabeth and/or HMS Prince of Wales.

Honestly, is a real world conflict. I could see some deployed aboard USN CVN's.
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Unread post10 Jul 2019, 18:00

Don't forget about Austere basing as that provides a far greater & faster response to help than an LHD or Carrier could provide.
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Unread post10 Jul 2019, 22:04

Corsair1963 wrote:
blain wrote:At some point F-4s may come out of the boneyard.

This is the cost of STOVL. How many F-35Bs do the Marines really need? They seem to be preparing to repeat Guadalcanal's Henderson Field across the Western Pacific or wherever else they can. No one in Congress or OSD ever challenges them because they are the Marines.

If they stopped B procurement after they replaced all the Harriers in the inventory they would have more than enough STOVL fighters for its large deck amphibs and expeditionary bases. Then replace the Hornets with less expensive C models as the Navy ramps up purchasing of the F-35, bringing down the fly away cost for both the Navy and Marines. A volume purchase of the C by the Marines and Navy would come close to the AF's F-35A procurement. Maybe you wouldn't hit the under $80 million target of the A but it would sure be a lot better than what the Marines are currently paying for the B. In 2016 OSD estimated that the cost of the power plant and lift fan was more than double the cost of the engine for the A or C models.

Otherwise keep on paying a premium for as capability you will likely not use and trying to keep jets flyable condition which should be going to the boneyard.


No, the USMC need a very large numbers of F-35B's. As it has considerable commitments across the globe in addition to just Big Deck LHA's/LHD's. Which, would carry more during war. Hell, in the future we will deploy a squadron or two on HMS Queen Elizabeth and/or HMS Prince of Wales.

Honestly, is a real world conflict. I could see some deployed aboard USN CVN's.


Let's look at the requirement. There are nine large deck amphibs. At least a third will not deploy even in a high intensity war. If all six embark a typical ACE for a MEU with CH-53Es, MV-22Bs, and F-35Bs then you are looking at a total of 36 F-35Bs. Some could be configured as light carriers with at the most 16 F-35Bs. The Wasp recently deployed with 10 F-35Bs. Even if you configure all the large deck amphibs as light carriers you are looking at less than 100 Bs. The difficulty of using large deck amphibs as light carriers is that they are limited in the amount of aviation fuel they carry.

The other requirement is austere airfields. Makeshift air fields such as highway strips or air fields with runways too short for conventional fighters. This isn't the 1940s. I really don't think you can hide and disperse fighters on tropical islands for very long. The difficulty with austere air fields is that they are low density in the number of aircraft you can host and are limited in terms of sortie generation rate. If you disperse $100 million fighters you will also need to disperse ground forces, air defense, and logistics. In a war with China is it realistic to expect the Navy to be able to support and protect more than a few locations? I have no problem with having the capability to disperse, but taking a step further and building a concept of operations around using austere bases is unrealistic and a waste of money.
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Unread post10 Jul 2019, 22:23

SpudmanWP wrote:Don't forget about Austere basing as that provides a far greater & faster response to help than an LHD or Carrier could provide.


It also makes a nice little target for artillery to take out.
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Unread post10 Jul 2019, 22:26

You are assuming that an austere base is within range and that the base does not have a CRAM system.
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Unread post11 Jul 2019, 00:43

blain wrote:
Let's look at the requirement. There are nine large deck amphibs. At least a third will not deploy even in a high intensity war. If all six embark a typical ACE for a MEU with CH-53Es, MV-22Bs, and F-35Bs then you are looking at a total of 36 F-35Bs. Some could be configured as light carriers with at the most 16 F-35Bs. The Wasp recently deployed with 10 F-35Bs. Even if you configure all the large deck amphibs as light carriers you are looking at less than 100 Bs. The difficulty of using large deck amphibs as light carriers is that they are limited in the amount of aviation fuel they carry.

The other requirement is austere airfields. Makeshift air fields such as highway strips or air fields with runways too short for conventional fighters. This isn't the 1940s. I really don't think you can hide and disperse fighters on tropical islands for very long. The difficulty with austere air fields is that they are low density in the number of aircraft you can host and are limited in terms of sortie generation rate. If you disperse $100 million fighters you will also need to disperse ground forces, air defense, and logistics. In a war with China is it realistic to expect the Navy to be able to support and protect more than a few locations? I have no problem with having the capability to disperse, but taking a step further and building a concept of operations around using austere bases is unrealistic and a waste of money.


In an all out conflict the need for F-35B's would be nothing short of "extreme". Trust me whatever they get won't be enough...
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Unread post11 Jul 2019, 06:54

blain wrote:At some point F-4s may come out of the boneyard.

This is the cost of STOVL. How many F-35Bs do the Marines really need? They seem to be preparing to repeat Guadalcanal's Henderson Field across the Western Pacific or wherever else they can. No one in Congress or OSD ever challenges them because they are the Marines.




Image

but hey wait a minute, did I miss something? Was Henderson Field not a success? Would there have been no need for Henderson if only Aircraft Carriers had been invented? oh wait. Even if this wasn't a strawman, whats the problem? are those dastardly jarheads unfairly recalling the successful past as something to remember for the present and future? This wasn't Gallipoli right? Cactus air force seems like a completely reasonable example. I think you should bring it up as often as possible. Make sure to mention where the Navy was everytime though. Keep things honest. :wink: To this day ship to shore operations are incorporating lessons from Guadalcanal, so I don't think your example is the dagger you think it is.

This will be the... 3rd time we've gone over STOVL?


If they stopped B procurement after they replaced all the Harriers in the inventory they would have more than enough STOVL fighters for its large deck amphibs and expeditionary bases. Then replace the Hornets with less expensive C models as the Navy ramps up purchasing of the F-35, bringing down the fly away cost for both the Navy and Marines. A volume purchase of the C by the Marines and Navy would come close to the AF's F-35A procurement. Maybe you wouldn't hit the under $80 million target of the A but it would sure be a lot better than what the Marines are currently paying for the B. In 2016 OSD estimated that the cost of the power plant and lift fan was more than double the cost of the engine for the A or C models.



If you want to be taken seriously, you have to know that theres more to cost than just the sticker on the window.

LRIP 11 Aircraft Costs (including jet, engine and fee) are:

102 F-35As CTOL - $89.2 million (5.4% reduction from Lot 10)
25 F-35Bs STOVL - $115.5 million (5.7% reduction from Lot 10)
14 F-35Cs CV - $107.7 million (11.1% reduction from Lot 10)

Moreover the F-35B is the bigger seller, more exportable, and I dare say more useful in general. The C is the most specialized variant, with zero exports. The F-35B has far more orders, international support, etc, theres wide debate about if the F-35C has support in the navy but i digress. Your proposed reduction in savings would never be realized, especially as even you concede the USMC would still have to get F-35B. Meaning, "volume purchase" is meanwhile benefiting the C, is robbing from the B's volume driving up its cost.



Otherwise keep on paying a premium for as capability you will likely not use and trying to keep jets flyable condition which should be going to the boneyard.


Because somehow the USN isn't having a boneyard problem? Is that why they robbed the USMC of all their not quite as beat to hell hornets so they could have tails for the CVWs, because the Navy's STOVL obsession?

Its been the USMC thats been having to juggle the hell out of their fleet thanks to the USN's CVN obsession. You've got it backward. We've actually had jets with higher time, but with more cats and traps left in them robbed from us and put into CVWs, because as we all know theres no smarter way to operate an airplane than shooting it off the front of a ship with a f**Kin catapult and then crash landing it back on with the help of hooking a steel cable, (after multiple attempts, and hours and hours of practice) rather than land basing.



outlaw162 wrote:
The only thing we don't know is where this leaves the USMC's tactical jet Weapons Systems Officers that have been a huge part of the VMFA(AW) community for decades. Will the Marines wind down that position entirely, putting pilots in both seats of F/A-18Ds....


That'll work real well. :shock:


LOLed

blain wrote:
Let's look at the requirement. There are nine large deck amphibs. At least a third will not deploy even in a high intensity war. If all six embark a typical ACE for a MEU with CH-53Es, MV-22Bs, and F-35Bs then you are looking at a total of 36 F-35Bs. Some could be configured as light carriers with at the most 16 F-35Bs. The Wasp recently deployed with 10 F-35Bs. Even if you configure all the large deck amphibs as light carriers you are looking at less than 100 Bs. The difficulty of using large deck amphibs as light carriers is that they are limited in the amount of aviation fuel they carry.

The other requirement is austere airfields. Makeshift air fields such as highway strips or air fields with runways too short for conventional fighters. This isn't the 1940s. I really don't think you can hide and disperse fighters on tropical islands for very long. The difficulty with austere air fields is that they are low density in the number of aircraft you can host and are limited in terms of sortie generation rate. If you disperse $100 million fighters you will also need to disperse ground forces, air defense, and logistics. In a war with China is it realistic to expect the Navy to be able to support and protect more than a few locations? I have no problem with having the capability to disperse, but taking a step further and building a concept of operations around using austere bases is unrealistic and a waste of money.


Yeah but thats not the requirement, thats what you think the requirement is.

Image

I'm sure you've done more claims and false assertions than just the 3 times I've responded, but this seems to be one of those cases where you made up your mind and won't be confused with facts, or even alternative viewpoints really. you keep coming back to it, and even the stuff that get dispelled like "muh henderson field"



blain wrote:
SpudmanWP wrote:Don't forget about Austere basing as that provides a far greater & faster response to help than an LHD or Carrier could provide.


It also makes a nice little target for artillery to take out.


Complains that F-35Bs will have higher attrition, simultaneously can't understand why the Marines want so many. We just can't win huh?

Good thing conventional airfields don't make nice targets, amiright? or ships. or ports.

damn, we should just not even deploy. This war stuff sounds risky. God knows what could happen out there.

do you think in a global war with china there might be some losses?


You really don't even know the reason for the hornet mixing, you just decided to hijack the thread with your same tired argument. This has nothing to do with STOVL as far as I know. NOTHING. with any luck we get Nuerotech to grace us with a better explanation, but my money would be on the various "make it work" schemed we've been seeing from the NAVAIR hornet community.

I doubt it has anything to do with STOVL, other than the fact that it lives in your head rent free
Last edited by XanderCrews on 11 Jul 2019, 16:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post11 Jul 2019, 08:59

Corsair1963 wrote:In an all out conflict the need for F-35B's would be nothing short of "extreme". Trust me whatever they get won't be enough...
:roll:



no no, don't be crazy. only buy the bare minimum of deployment aircraft. nevermind that everyone has to do juggling acts currently with aircraft bought well in excess of just the proposed 100...

thats how this works right? you forego rotations, training squadrons, attrition, long term maintenance, various dets, NFZs, joint taskings, NATO, actual deployment run ups, reinforcing deployments, large scale war, etc, etc?


an MEU will only carry a battalion of Marines, and yet the Marines have 3 entire DIVISIONS. Why? is it the obsession with world war II? Why do the Marines have around 200,000 when a Battalion is not even 1000?? since there are only 9 large deck amphibs, and 1/3 won't deploy, why do the marines need more than 5000 grunts at any one time? and don't tell me they can operate off the ship, thats just crazy talk.

it really makes you think...
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Unread post22 Jul 2019, 02:28

Marines Winding Down Weapon Systems Officer Position, F/A-18Ds To Fly With Pilot Only

The long-established Weapon Systems Officer position is in the twilight of its existence within the Marine Corps tactical jet community.

By Tyler Rogoway July 19, 2019

In our exclusive report on the integration of single-seat F/A-18C models into traditionally two-seat F/A-18D 'all-weather' Marine strike-fighter squadrons, and vice-versa, The War Zone has learned that the Marines are in the process of winding-down the Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) position entirely. Once existing WSOs filter out of the Hornet community, the remaining missionized (not trainers) F/A-18Ds will be operated by just a pilot. Captain Christopher Harrison, a Communications Strategy Officer for Marine Corps' headquarters in the Pentagon, replied to The War Zone's follow-up question regarding the fate of Hornet WSOs as such:

"The Marine Corps is no longer accessing WSOs. However, all WSOs currently in service and training will be utilized in F/A-18Ds until the platform is deactivated or there are no more WSOs in the fleet, whichever comes first. Further, we do not expect the Marine Corps to man F/A-18Ds with two pilots (i.e. a pilot replacing the WSOs spot) once we reach a point where there are no longer WSOs in the Fleet. A pilot can fly and execute all missions in an F/A-18D without a WSO in the backseat (i.e. keeping the seat empty). Having a WSO simply adds increase proficiency in certain mission skills, such as FAC(A) [Foward Air Control-Airborne]."


https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/2 ... pilot-only

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