Doomsday scenario for F-35B/C?

Here’s a scary scenario for the Fort Worth crowd:

The US Navy, seeking to overcome a tactical aircraft shortfall that peaks in 2017, decides to buy 126 more Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets from 2011 to 2015. At the same time, the 8,000hr service life for 509 Hornets is extended by 600hr.

To offset that cost, 93 fewer F-35B/Cs are purchased between 2018 and 2023, reducing the navy and Marine Corps’ Joint Strike Fighter order to 587 jets. The Navy thus replaces F/A-18C/Ds with AESA-equipped fighters, but loses a large fraction of its stealth inventory after 2020.

That scenario is contemplated under a new report released quietly last Friday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The report analyzes four scenarios for maintaining the navy’s and marine corps’ inventories of fighter aircraft. In the long run, the scenario that exchanges F-35s for Super Hornets costs $3.8 billion under a multi-year procurement approach. That’s roughly half the long-run cost of executing a $7.7 billion program to extend the service life of about 60% of the existing Hornet fleet, and maintaining the F-35 plan.

But most intriguing about the CBO scenario described above is that it may already be happening. The CBO report says that buying the extra 126 Super Hornets would start next year by adding eight aircraft to the FY2011 budget request. That happens to be exactly the amount added by the House Armed Services Committee two weeks ago, which could become law if the Senate and appropriators agree.



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9 Responses to Doomsday scenario for F-35B/C?

  1. aeroxavier 2 June, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    not bad news

  2. Solomon 2 June, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    You’re kinda overstating things aren’t you? First you label the B and C models but the Marine Corps isn’t buying any Super Hornets. You’re also failing to note that the Sec of the Navy has come out in support of the F-35, stating that they will be buying the plane. Additionally you have to realize that the push to buy the Super Hornet was made at serious costs and mainly to satisfy a Congressional delegation.

    The shoe has yet to fall on the Navy regarding carriers and the aircraft gap.

    Lastly their were 3 other scenarios lined out in the report…a couple of others seem much more plausible than the one you suggest.

  3. Stephen Trimble 2 June, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    Hi Solomon, Good questions. I very clearly state this is one of four scenarios described by CBO, and that it’s just a scenario. I don’t know if it’s any more probable than any of the other three, but it’s the one that was most interesting to me, particularly in regards to the havoc it could create within the F-35 program. Whatever the SECNAV says now, that position can easily change. Look at the USAF’s sudden change of heart on F-22 last year after an abrupt leadership change, for instance.

  4. Aussie Digger 2 June, 2010 at 5:40 pm #

    I hardly think it a “doomsday scenario.”

    What it would mean is an increase in the cost of the B and C models, but more than 580 would still be acquired, by the USA alone.

    I am quite convinced that the USA herself would bear the burden and cost of any such arrangement, and partner nations would be insulated from such price rises.

    This may mean further cuts in the program, but US Congress has to come to a decision at some point. Either bear a fighter gap, or buy Super Hornets and reduce the F-35 purchase, in the shorter term perhaps, at the very least.

    What must be avoided is the process that occurred with F-22, the “death by a thousand cuts”. It’s all well and good for industry to point to lessons learnt from previous programs, I wonder if politicians can bring themselves to do so as well?

  5. Dorene Gromer 3 June, 2010 at 6:11 am #

    Thanks for the nice blog. I enjoy your writing. This is a complex subject matter.

  6. RSF 7 June, 2010 at 2:46 am #

    I see Mr. Trimble that you’ve upset the F-35 fans with the idea that the worst case scenario may actually occur.

    In response to that, I’d like to point out that in the past, the worst has be exactly where this program as gone (expensive redesigns of the airframe, failures of the F135 engine, lack of commonality among the airframes, dismal flight testing, and billions in cost overruns).

    Just a few other comments in response to the postings here:

    1. The teleconference with the Sec. of the Navy has to be taken with a grain of salt since to keep ones job with Mr. Gates requires omitting the truth.

    2. With the price now of the F-35 somewhere between 112-158 million each vs. roughly 60 million each for a Super Hornet, quite a few more aircraft can be purchased by the USN to fill carrier decks by going with the F-18.

    3. And with the international partners either reducing or eliminating orders for the JSF, how will that impact the price of the aircraft?

    The fact that the CBO is planning like this speaks volumes about the realization that the JSF Program may not be able to deliver an affordable fighter. Taking into account the present political climate, the F-35 is in serious jeopardy of being eliminated completely just like the F-22.

  7. barry martin 9 June, 2010 at 5:13 pm #

    lets just order a bunch of super hornets and increase the the development speed of uavs’ the occupied fighter is soon to be history anyways?? iceman p.s. the carrier is probably toast also??

  8. Bianca Baba 30 June, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    Adrien Laduke

  9. Rico Deloge 15 September, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    You really must do something about all these spam comments, it makes it almost impossible for a genuine commenter to be heard.

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