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Boeing must be smelling blood, because they’re going for what they think may be the most vulnerable of the Pentagon’s aircraft programs, the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Boeing says it’s got a nifty plan to offer something just short of a fifth generation aircraft– a souped-up Super Hornet — to tide everyone over till it can build a sixth-generation fighter. This would allow the Pentagon (and foreign militaries) to skip the fifth-generation F-35, which has many shortcomings.
This is Boeing’s sales pitch, as Aviation Weekreports:
The idea is that customers could buy 4.5-generation Super Hornets (perhaps 4.75-generation with the planned extra forward stealth and extra range of Block 3 aircraft) and then switch to a new, sixth generation faster than if they bought the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter. To be available circa 2024, the sixth-generation aircraft would feature a combat radius of more than 1,000 miles and stealth against a much wider spectrum of radars.
“The [Navy] C-version of the F-35 doesn’t buy you a lot that the Super Hornet doesn’t provide,” says Bob Gower, Boeing’s vice president for F/A-18 and EA-18G programs. “Our strategy is to create a compelling reason for the services to go to the next [sixth] generation platform. How do you bridge F/A-18E/F to get us there? We want to convince customers to stay with [Super Hornet] a few years longer — by adding advanced capabilities and lowering price — so that they can get to the sixth generation faster. If you go to JSF first, it’s going to be a long time.”
Another part of Boeing’s argument is that the “Navy is comfortable with the Super Hornet against the highest [enemy] threat through 2024, with the [improved] capabilities we have in the flight plan,” Gower says. “The ability to counter the threat gets you to about the point that [Boeing’s] sixth generation is available.”
The Super Hornet may be a fine aircraft, but if you kill the F-35, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do to all the international partners that have invested in it and planned their Air Force modernization around it. That includes the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Australia and Turkey. Oh well, allies, schmallies. We’ll always have the coalition of the willing.
More important, where the heck is this sixth generation fighter? Did I miss something in the budget cycle? The article quotes the Boeing official as saying: “The U.S. Air Force and Navy are now talking a lot more about where they need to go with sixth generation to get beyond JSF. It could be unmanned, but I think you will see a combination of missions — some manned, some unmanned.”
Any ways.. lets see whats there for us waiting.. A 6th Generation jet is yet a dream and it would be difficult to convert that dream to reality before 2024!