The US Navy has issued a Request for Information (RfI) for anew fighter to replace the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler inthe 2030s.
“The intent of this research is to solicit Industry inputson candidate solutions for CVN [nuclear-powered aircraft carrier] basedaircraft to provide air supremacy with a multi-role strike capability in ananti-access/area denied (A2AD) operational environment,” the RfI reads.”Primary missions include, but are not limited to, air warfare (AW), strikewarfare (STW), surface warfare (SUW), and close air support (CAS).”
But in addition persistent capability inside an enemy airdefence system, the USN also wants the prospective aircraft to provide othercapabilities found in existing strike fighters. These include organicair-to-air refueling, tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and targetacquisition (RSTA), and airborne electronic attack (AEA).
However, the USN is not limiting itself to manned aircraftor to an entirely new jet.
“The trade space refinement activity will characterize abroad trade space, to include unmanned, optionally manned and manned aircraft,”the document reads. “System attributes and system capabilities will beconsidered in the context of cost and affordability. Concepts that are derived from legacy aircraft, ‘cleansheet’ new design aircraft, as well as innovative technology conceptsspecifically tailored for the operational context are all relevant.”
At a minimum, the aircraft should be able to operate fromNimitz and Ford-class carriers and should be a “complementary CVW [carrier airwing] asset to the F-35C and an unmanned persistent intelligence, surveillance,and reconnaissance (ISR) vehicle with precision strike capability.”
The RfI sets atarget initial operational capability (IOC) date of 2030 and will consider aprospective jet’s capabilities, in addition to technical risks and total costof ownership. “If a spiral approach to incorporation of systems and/ortechnology to achieve full operational capability is employed, provide thetimeline to achieve full capability,” the document reads.
But there is no programme just yet. “All we’re looking foris information, says Rear Admiral Donald Gaddis, the Naval Air SystemsCommand’s (NAVAIR) programme executive officer for tactical aviation. “Thisparticular AoA [analysis of alternatives] is going to be a long one,” he adds.
Nonetheless, the earliest Super Hornets will be reaching theend of their 9000-hour life spans by the 2030s. Those aircraft will have to bereplaced, but their successor will be defined as much by what industry believesas possible as the USN’s own projected needs, Gaddis says. But he is willing tosay that those requirements will call for far greater kinematic performance andincreased range.
The industrial base, however, is of serious concern, Gaddissays. Boeing, he says, may not be around as a fighter design entity as theF/A-XX programme is assembled and the technology–to include advanced airframesand engines–to build the jet is matured. “I think that’s going to be something[Office of the Secretary of Defense] is going to have to think about,” he says.
That is also something the US Air Force will have to contendwith on its nascent F-X programme to replace the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
It is also conceivable that the Department of Defense mightcompel the USAF and USN to do a joint AoA, Gaddis says. “But I think theattributes of a carrier aircraft and an air force programme maybe different,”he says. “But there is always that potential.”
In addition to the F/A-XX, Gaddis says that the USN’s C-2Greyhound carrier cargo-delivery aircraft will have to be replaced. The serviceis conducting an analysis of alternatives to figure out what it needs to do.Gaddis says any such programme would have to wait until the “next decade,” butthere will be a “full and open competition.”
Meanwhile, NAVAIR’s programme manager for the V-22, MarineCol Greg Masiello is pitching the tilt-rotor as the best, most natural,replacement for the aged C-2s. The V-22 has recently been certified to operatefrom the decks of USN carriers and would give the navy enormous flexibility, hesays.
Meanwhile, the USN should also be issuing a final requestfor proposal for the next generation jammer programme to equip the EA-18G fleetin June, Gaddis says. The emphasis will be on getting a “mid-band” capabilityout to fleet by 2020, but there will also be a strong focus on affordability.
Here are the evaluation criteria for F/A-XX:
Concept Metrics Instructions: (1) Please fill in as many blanks as possible. Blank responses will not be penalized but will limit evaluation criteria. (2) Save this file as “Companyname_Concept_Metrics.xls”. If multiple response are provided please indicate with a number following the company name. (3) Keep data inputs to one column Image Company Name Vehicle Designation Category General 1.0 Geometry (Unfolded/Folded) Spot Factor Empty Weight (lb) GTOW (lb) Useful Load (lb) Fuel Weight (Internal/External) (lb) Max Weight (lb) Crew Requirement Aircraft Performance 2.0 Ferry Range (nmi) Combat Radius (nmi) CAP Endurance (hrs) Cruise Speed (mach) Max Mil Speed (20k/40k ft) Max AB Speed (20k/40k ft) Sustained Turn Rate (20k/40k ft) (deg/s) Instantaneous Turn Rate (20k/40k ft) (deg/s) Sustained Turn Radius (20k/40k ft) Instantaneous Turn Radius (20k/40k ft) Instantaneous G-Limit (20k/40k ft) (g) Sustained g’s (20k/40k ft) (g) Cruise Altitude (ft) Max Altitude (ft) Propulsion 3.0 Number Engines Engine Weight (lb) Thrust per Engine (lbf) Cruise SFC (lb/lbf*hr) Afterburner Thrust (lbf) Auxiliary Power Available (kW) Self Start Engine(s) Thermal Management Capability Max dBA on 50′ arc Area of 65 dB SEL contour Weaponization 4.0 Weapon Types Number of Hard points Internal/External Communication (L-16, etc.) Sensors 5.0 Sensor Payload Cooling Required (lb/s) Power Required (kW) Language SLOC Modularity EW 6.0 Offensive Defensive Counter Fuel 7.0 Air-to-Air Refueling on Air-to-Air Refueling off Alternative Fuels Maintainability 8.0 MTBF MTBR Manning requirement Carrier Suitability 9.0 Faraday Cages, Grounding, etc Primary Materials Survivability 10.0 Vulnerability Visible Acoustic (dB) IR CBRN Protection Counter-DEW Interoperability Cost TRL/IOC 11.0 TRL by 2020 IOC Current Status (Paper/TRL/Demonstrator/POR) Additional Information