Naval Air: April 17, 2002

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The Navy is considering serious cuts in its fighter purchases, reducing the fleet of F-18E/Fs from 548 to 460 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet by 400 aircraft (200 Marine vertical take-off aircraft and 200 Navy conventional take-off types). This has the Marines furious (as it will cut two wings out of their force and drive up the price of the rest, and could convince the British to switch to the conventional version) and international JSF partners complaining that the price of the aircraft will go up. (The Navy insists that expanding export markets will make up the difference.) Boeing and the Navy are negotiating the F-18E/F buy, and the company is objecting to the cut and saying it will drive up the price. The Navy is also retiring its S-3 Viking aircraft (which are used for anti-submarine, tanker, surveillance, and missile strike missions) early to save money. This move will mean that Atlantic Fleet carriers will conduct their next deployments (in some cases two of them) with only six S-3s instead of eight. (This was to happen when F-18E Super Hornet squadrons arrive as they need less tanker support, but the carriers will lose two S-3s before gaining any F-18Es.)--Stephen V Cole 

 


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