a reply to: RadioRobert
The eventual very low fly away cost is not representative of the total program cost. I just used the figure to illustrate how cheap an advanced Super
Tomcat would eventually need to be to hope to draw even on the total cost. And I just don’t think this would have been possible. An advanced Super
Tomcat program will always cost you more than the Super Hornet program.
No matter what, the Super Tomcat is the bigger and more complex aircraft. It would have required are far more extensive redesign than the Hornet since
it’s based on considerable older tech. It’s intended tech level would have lack about half a decade behind what the Super Hornet was eventually
built upon since it would have gone into mass production in the 90s instead of the early 2000s. This means expensive upgrades down the line. And
Grumman already built the F-14D for no less than 40 million a plane in the early 90s. There’s just no way an advanced Super Tomcat built in the
2000s onward would land in the same ballpark, very much unlike the Super Hornet if we adjust the figures for inflation.
If you don’t agree with this take, fine with me. I just don’t get it. Somewhat higher refueling requirements will never offset this.
As for what I would have done, I’ve been arguing for a pure Hornet based air wing, eventually supplemented by an actual UCLASS based UCAV ever since
the Obama administration decided to end F-22 production in favor of the JSF program in 2009. Carriers don’t need an integrated LO strike capability
to be mission effective in 99% of all conceivable missions apart from fighting the Chinese.
And since China is spending all its time and money on coming up with new ways to effectively fight American Carrier Groups anyway, they are the wrong
tool for that job period. It’s pointless to invest countless billions in increasing the capabilities for the near-peer fight if they’ll end up on
the sidelines anyway. This doesn’t mean they are obsolete, it just means there’s a greater need for smart and economical procurement while
focusing on the actual mission – which was bombing Sandistan back then. The Super Hornet was well suited for this circumstance.
I cannot say what position I would have had in the 90s since I really didn’t pay much attention to it at the time and it’s too easy to judge in
As for a Chinese kill chain to target carrier groups with cruise missiles – if I were them, I’d focus on a robust spaceborne surveillance system
for tactical geolocation. Just what they’ve been doing for the last ten years, building up satellite constellations with potentially devastating
If they keep up their pace, they’ll have a near real-time tracking capability eventually. In the meantime, you’d link the spaceborne surveillance
with their extremely long-range OTH facilities and cover the gaps with supersonic recon drone.
The rest is up to the cruise missile. Compared to ballistics or hypersonics, it’s comparatively easy to fit them with a robust sensor package to
pick up something. And if the first wave just thins out the escorts, that’s fine too.
About VLS, if you have decent sources about their standard loadouts these days, please share them. I could only guess.
In a total war scenario, the US Pacific Fleet should be able to deploy more than 50 Destroyers and a dozen Cruisers within a month or two. I don’t
see why they’d lack the VLS cells to screen say two Carrier Groups with two carriers each. Especially not if the JMSDF helps out too. They just
don’t have the missiles stocks to keep it up for long.
And what would you do with them anyway? They cannot penetrate the Chinese A2AD umbrella and hit targets along the coastlines, regardless of what
fighter jet they employ. They could go after PLAN surface assets but why bother when LRASM equipped strategic platforms could do that in one