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Timeline: CNO Richardson wants Stingray operational by ’19, This, to me, suggests the Stingray can’t stray too far from an operational platform–all the maintenance, operational envelope work and training has got to be largely already in place TODAY. And then there’s the perennial fear of having a large defense production line closing out just before a Presidential election–an F-18 Stingray variant would remove that canker quite quickly. And if you look at this report from USNI, let’s also note that the Ford Class’s launch and recovery software takes years to accommodate new weight profiles, and, as it is, USS Ford won’t be throwing F-18s with large Cobham buddy tanks off the flight deck until, oh, gosh, ’19 (oh, hey that’s interesting timing, no?). If we want the Stingray to work by ’19, then it must align with the Ford’s existing launch and recovery programming.
As the requirements have trickled out, the Stingray has started to look very much like an unmanned F-18 variant... . Barring some crazy surprise in the RFP requirements, the Next-Gen Flight III F-18 Boeing has been shopping looks awfully, awfully capable of meeting base Stingray requirements.
originally posted by: mightmight
Using an unmanned 'QK-18H' for this mission wouldnt be the worst solution in the world, at the very least another F-18 variant is easier to support on a carrier than an entirely new navalized aircraft like the Avenger.