CNO: Fighter Gap? Don’t Worry About It

After years of fretting over a potential fighter gap caused by delays in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Navy officials are saying everything’s gonna be ok, thanks to the Super Hornet.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead repeatedly said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday that the sea service is in “a very good position” with regards to its fighter fleet due to the recent buys of dozens of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets that are set to come on line in the next few years combined with life extensions the service will perform on 150 of  its older F/A-18s and the gradual introduction of the F-35.

All of this means the sea-service will avoid the, so called, fighter gap of 100 to 177 tactical jets it has been worrying about for several years now, at least that’s what the CNO says. Well, that’s nice to know.

Still, we don’t know when the F-35C is going to come on line or in what numbers. We’ll only know the answer to that once the Navy has thoroughly poured over the results of the F-35 program’s Technical Baseline Review that took place over the last year following the dramatic restructuring of the entire JSF program. Many in DoD call that review, known as the TBR, the most in-depth scrubbing the program has ever seen. Basically, it’s meant to determine everything that’s good, bad and ugly with the program. Something that’s desperately needed for the Pentagon to determine how much the jet will cost, how long it will really take to field and, in the case of the B Vs. C-model, how many of each type of jet to buy.

  • Lance

    Navy is laughable now days. They retired the F-14s ten years before they where suppose to be retired then delayed F-35s

    Any normal attack plan can launch anti ship missiles while being out of range of F-18 radar and AMRAAM missiles. The Navy needs to look at itself critically.

  • Lance

    Yeah but the fact is even if they can detect a bomber 50 miles away with the ships radar with out AIM-54 Missiles the plane can shoot a anti-ship missile miles away before a F-18 can shoot a AMRAAM at the bomber.

  • NashKlein

    sure an F-18 isn’t perfect but it is definently better than nothing

  • jsallison

    Not having a current ALRAAM on board does seem to be a lack but E2c’s allow coverage much further out than 50 miles. In a hostile environment, or a potentially hostile one I wouldn’t ignore the possibility of AF AWACS assets being wired into the fleet defense umbrella at need, as well. And do you really think a CAG worth his salt is going to sit on his fourth point of contact until a threat gets to 50 miles? These days, that’s point blank.

  • Roger

    Where is that image from? It looks like a photo but the lighting seems to good. Is it? What is the light source; a flare or missile being launched?

    • Infrared countermeasure. Missiles only have a few seconds of active burn in their motors anyway.

  • Ummm pushing legacy Hornets past 8k hours with another rebarrel and associated work isn’t worth the money invested.
    F-35C? Good luck with that
    Super Hornet is a good idea with the follow thoughts that even if we get F-35C and more Supers, the USN is going to have an air wing in the coming years that will be obsolete against big threats.
    Another problem solver for all this; with the fed budget in the tank, we could reach a point where we can’t come up with the O and S funds to run big carrier ops and have to park a few of them. Well, that will solve the carrier air wing fast mover population issue for a while.

  • I wonder if the F-35C extends the range and if so, how much?

  • Taxandrian

    OK, let me see *anyone* stop an attack (on a CVN) by a determined eny who has…
    – a couple of Tu-22M regiments
    – a few SSGNs
    – lots of creative thought

    An enemy who has none of these you can beat over the head with a big club. No carriers needed. So: carrier CAP’s supposed to have >200Nm radar and missile range. Either that, or you’re f^$#ed.

  • Musson

    Having the best fighters in the world – won’t mean much if you cannot afford to deploy them. It’s time to think outside the box and develop a slow long duration aircraft that can forward deploy and launch longer range anit-aircraft missiles. It could be thought of as a picket aircraft – supported by fighters.

  • Mitch S.

    So the Navy’s saying with the F18 E-F it doesn’t mind the delays with F35.
    Is that another way of saying the Navy doesn’t need the F35C?
    Is this the first step in the Navy cancelling or significantly cutting back its F35C buy?

  • Geoffrey Willis Author | Roger, I have detailed this at letngh in other stories, but the Bush gun running program and the Obama gun running program are apples and Oranges. Under the Bush program every gun had a sensor built into the weapon and was followed Before any of those weapons could disappear, they were seized by ATF and not allowed to go into the stream of drug traffickers.On the other hand, in Fast Furious the tracking devices were either removed by ATF or simply not installed in the first place. The thought was that the weapons use would help the ATF track to flow of the guns from the original fake sale by ATF agents directly to the drug lords. This plan was an immediate failure and more than 2,000 weapons were completely lost to the Mexican drug cartels only later to be used to murder hundreds of Mexican citizens and United States Officer Brian Terry.No one outside of the Obama Administration ever gave the order to remove the tracking devices, and even the ATF argued against the tactic. It is clear that Attorney General Holder received frequent briefings on the operation, it seems that his only current defense is that he did not listen to those briefing.

    • blight_adsfas

      Do tracking devices even work? If the seller has an armorer they can strip the weapons down and figure it out rather quickly (and then execute the supplier of the weapons). I find it hard to believe some cartel guy would just accept pallets of weapons without actually checking if they worked. They are not amateurs, like the terrorists who buy fake nukes and fake Stinger missiles.

      Worth noting that as early as 2007, Operation Wide Receiver had already begun to lose guns. The idea was to seize them in Mexico…fail. I wonder who briefed Obama on this ATF program when he assumed office. Regardless of what they told him about the program (and it is unlikely they told him that guns were lost in Wide Receiver) he still becomes responsible for the mistakes of those far below in the civilian chain of command.

    • blight_adsfas

      Some other interesting tidbits:

      -Some of the gunrunners worked closely with the cartels, and were being targeted by DEA. This creates a conflict of interest between gunrunning and cartelbusting (with both under DOJ).

      “Later, the DOJ inspector General concluded: “We did not find persuasive evidence that agents sought to seize firearms or make arrests during the investigative stage of the case and were rebuffed by the prosecutor. … We found that the lack of seizures and arrests was primarily attributable to the pursuit of a strategic goal shared by both the [Phoenix] ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office—to eliminate a trafficking organization—and the belief that confronting subjects and seizing firearms could compromise that goal”

      What might have made more sense is selling guns with defects to assure imminent failure after a few test firings, but it would not have saved the unfortunate federal agent.

      This happens to the DEA at times as well. To make drug stings, sometimes DEA dips into its stockpile of seized drugs. And sometimes the drugs are lost. It is an unfortunate risk that comes with trying suberfuge. If you want zero risk, simply arrest all the straw buyers without building a case against their handlers. But until we get Mexico do the prosecutions/extraditions we’re pretty screwed.

      We should just offer JSOC as a resource to the Mexican government. The F3EAD infrastructure would be great for knocking down the narcos. And if Mexico stabilizes the flow of immigrants will stop (especially the flow of Guatamaleans, El Salvadoreans and the like fleeing their own unhappy countries)