Naval Air: April 26, 2002

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: The Marines are marshalling their forces to resist the attack by their most insidious enemy: the US Navy. The Navy wants to cut back or eliminate the vertical take-off version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in order to provide more money to buy two-seat FA-18F strike fighters and EA-18 electronic jammer aircraft. The Marines are asking their allies in Congress to force the Navy to admit their plans, and then to exert pressure to keep plans for the vertical-take-off version intact even if it costs the Navy some FA-18s. The Navy is reportedly going to suggest that new carriers be multi-mission large-deck ships, eliminating the need for special smaller amphibious carriers that could only carry vertical take-off fighters. The Navy says that the Afghan War proves the need for two-seat fighters to handle missions such as forward air control, hard-target attack (where the back-seat pilot guides the precision-guided bomb to a pinpoint target), and coordinating rescue missions. Only two-seat fighters can manage the rapid communications with the air operations center on the ground to get release to attack newly-spotted targets. Each carrier is scheduled to have only six FA-18Fs in its air wing, but the carriers in the Afghan War are using eight and finding them to be too few.

Even more important, the US will not have enough EA-6B aerial jammers to perform all needed missions by 2009, and only the Phase-3 version of the F-35 can be developed into a aerial jammer, and it won't even be available to start such development until 2012, the only real choice for a new aerial jammer is the FA-18F. That will mean more production must be
started.--Stephen V Cole 

 


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