The manufacturer is offering the U.S. Navy more F-18Es for a bargain
price of $50 million each. This proposal is intended as a stopgap to keep
fighter strength up as older F-18As are retired, and the introduction of the
new F-35 is delayed. With a max weight of 29 tons, an F-18E can carry up to
eight tons of bombs. Combat range is 720 kilometers, and the aircraft was
designed as a fighter.
Force simulations and studies have shown the new F-35 to be four times as
effective against any current fighter (the best of them known as "fourth
generation" aircraft.) The major advantages of the F-35 are engine power
(it's one engine generates more power than the two engines used in the
Eurofighter or F-18), stealth and the fact that it can fight "clean"
(without any pods or missiles hung from its wings, and interfering with maximum
The 27 ton
F-35 is armed with an internal 25mm cannon and four internal air-to-air
missiles (or two missiles and two smart bombs). Plus four external smart bombs
and two missiles. All sensors are carried internally, and max weapon load is
6.8 tons. The aircraft is very stealthy when just carrying internal weapons.
The first F-35s will be delivered in two years, but it will be five years
before they are available in quantity. Given the prospect of a smaller defense
budget, the navy is expected to decline the offer of budget F-18s (which can
cost nearly $100 million when fully tricked out.)