That isn't going to happen though becaus the USN, USMC, and our allies need the F-35.
With the number of F-35's now scheduled to be purchased, the USN will have an 'exact' A-6 immitation on-deck, right down to the VA = ten airframes
Marine and Navy Modernization Plans-
Scroll down and read the bitter truth in the graph.
140 squiddy airframes (divided by 12 carrier airwings with a 20 airframe schoolhouse and PDM/test reserve force).
And 170 jarhead jets (with NO way to get quickly to theater because they ALL have probe and drogue refueling which means that the USAF has to
reconfigure it's principle tanker force just to drag Marine aircraft to theater. Aircaft which have only about the _same_ radius as the F-16C,
thanks to the STOVL weight disaster).
This is not 'cheap' air. This is not 'multirole = better'. It is by the very nature of the restricted buys, a _tiny_, _specialist_, force.
Which can do absolutely /nothing/ to extend the 'sphere of influence' around a carrier because there are too few to maintain the sortie rates.
SORTIE RATES being determined by the number of aircraft you have airborne 'off the pointy end' at one time. Divided by the number of hours per
evolution they are engaged in (90% of a jet's travel time is to and from the target area).
Furthermore, this 'joint' fighter cannot operate _commonly_ within /any/ of the services' doctrinal plans. The USAF goes in fast and comes out
faster, choosing extended radius operations to keep it's basing mode safe while having a 10,000ft ability to run simultaneous launch/recovery cycles
with NO 'postage stamp effect'.
Which is fine, except the F-35C, with it's giant wing, is likely going to cruise at Mach .75. While both it and the F-35A will make about 700nm,
unrefueled, from base. The fact is that both will likely 'top off' several times, to maintain some safety margins. And yet the USN probe and
drogue method sterilizes a tanker boom for the receptacle mode, is tricky to fly behind a big-wake heavy like a KC-10 or 135. And is about half as
fast at transfer. So that the USAF jets will fly TOO the target more quickly. And take on fuel /much/ more efficiently enroute and coming home.
Meanwhile, the F-35B with only about 12-14,000lbs of fuel (probably less once they finally admit the truth of 'operational' [weapons and high
ambient day temps] STOVL losses in useful fuel for STOVL takeoff margins) is going to run out to about 450nm instead of the 700nm which official
doctrine: 'From The Sea, Forward' requires /beyond/ the 200nm feet wet wet+200nm feet of litoral warfare.
In terms of cruise point, it will have roughly the same wing area as the F-35A which means less weighted surface drag but about 2,000-2,500lbs more
operational empty equipped weight. Which means /lift at drag/ (literaly the amount which the wing must bear above a median lift requirement at AOA-X)
Signature control on both the F-35B and C is going to be a /nightmare/ with all those flapping controls and opening doors. Even before you consider
the marine operating environment penalty for ferrous RAM.
What's more, typical STOVL ops recover is to come up alongside the boat and then 'inch over the side' while maintaining the seaway pace of the
ships motion. This keeps lateral control simple and lets you avoid the straight-deck hazard of rolling through any spotted helos or other airframes
and their wakes.
You do that on a Navy big deck however and you are going to put high energy, /very hot/, air right over the aft deck park. Where all the bombed up,
fueled up, crewing, airframes sit.
Alternately (on an LHA) you can do a rolling VL over the backend of the boat. But here too, the F-35B is not compatible with the an
over-the-spudlocker approach if the cross deck pendant is set up. Because it's gear is not rated for the stress.
And to take the CDP (Arrestor Wires) /down/ means you are 20 minutes away from your next USN wire catch.
All of which comes down to being an excellent excuse for the Marines not to have to fulfill the USN 'fill' mission whereby (so long as they have
hornets) they maintain at least one squadron in every Marine Air Wing on instant readiness to stiffen the USN's low squadron counts. As we descend
from 70 airframe airwings in the Roosevelt Load. To about 30-40 in the Reagan one. While INCREASING the total DWT tonnage of the carriers to about
Conversely, the USMC has /never/ routinely deployed with more than 6-8 AV-8A/B on their LHA/LHD because then, by golly, they would be an aircraft not
a helicopter carrier (the rolling takeoff required for STOVL completely hoses the deckspotting for the helos which means you can either run strike
cycles or airmobile cycles but not both...).
If you read 'The Carrier Myth'-
It becomes obvious that the things which win wars are NUMBERS and PRESENCE.
These are -not- equateable terms.
Because numbers means the ability to surge multiple airframes with multiple mission constraints on a similar profile so that everybody has the gas and
flight time to do the job.
And presence is the ability to KEEP those missions coming, until the job is done.
In 'SURGEX' tests just before Operation Allied Force, the USN was only able to generate about a third of USAF sorties and then only by killing their
plane crews trying to constantly maintain a rotation of loading (prepositioned) stores out of the fleet train and then jamming them (mostly
lightweight munitions) aboard jets which had an additional 25% more flight crew. While flying to a radius of merely 200nm to drop. For about three
OAF showed that if you loaded up Italian airbases like Aviano to the gills, a mere 120 USAF airframes could fly FOUR TIMES the total sorties of the
USN. Even though the squids were technically closer to the target area.
Yet OAF was an exception. While OEF (the Afghan air campaign of 2001) was much more typical. For, after wasting 30 bloody days turning their boats
and getting them to the IO, the USN was still the only service which could put air as far north as Kabul. Provided it was understood that jets would
have about 20 minutes over the target area AND we would be doing the unthinkable: sending small S-3 tankers over 'hostile' Pakistani territory.
Here, the plane crews could not be 'stressed' because the typical flight time was 10-12hrs. And there are pictures of USN seamen sunning themselves
in kiddy pools on the carrier decks to prove it.
But nor was the amount of stress put on the enemy adequate. As USAF arrival at bases in Krgzhstan proved much more effective in fighting the
(Northern Alliance -> southwards) war.
What's the difference /here/?
The useless gutsack in the cockpit. And the size of the airframe needed to accomodate him.
When those USN jets recovered back on the boat October 10th, 2001, the crews had to be pulled from their cockpits they were so weak. And then they
turned right around and went into a strike planning cell so that (again, using inflated squadron pilot counts from a standard manning ratio of 1.25:1
towards 1.7:1) the next crew could turn around and do it again the next day.
This is a VERY poor way to utilization rates up because it is entirely cyclical. i.e. rather than launching or recovering 5-10 aircraft every couple
hours for most of the day (with a short down time for maintenance and plane crew rest) in what is called /streaming/ operations. So that you never
really have all 100-120 airframes crowded aboard.
We flew what amounted to Vietnam styled alpha strikes as maximum efforts. Followed by...nothing.
With the result that the average CAS call time was 26 minutes. And if the operation wasn't fragged for that day's sorte cycle, it could be 17hrs or
In all of these things, the limited numbers of JSF, their vastly disparate radius performance, both with each other and with all the jets which would
STILL have to support them (No F-35 variant can carry ARMs internally. Nor is it a jammer platform.), counts against any need for ANY of our services
to have them.
Not least because 'joint' does not mean _common_ in a basing mode for which the USAF can send 300 jets to sea if there is no runway close. Or the
USN can put 50 jets, 500nm inland. And lock down a country so that no 'terrorists' can escape.
I won't comment about what our 'allies' need except to say that the only folks screaming for commonality in the strike warfare metric are the
theater CINCs. Who have this bug up their hind quarters about supporting in-country forces with multinational CAS doctrine. Even though
/consistently/ nations like Denmark and the Netherlands have refused to employ ordnance on targets which GFACs are -screaming- at them are hostile.
Because, from 20,000ft, looking through a targeting pod optics on a 6X6 inch screen, they look like civillian homes.
We don't need that kind of 'joint' multiforce capabilities. Especially not when the LOCLOEXCOM which is the bureacratic DOD entity entrusted with
safeguarding stealth is screaming just as loudly that 'anti tamper' be /hanged/ Low Observables will lose 90% of it's effectiveness within 5 years
if we create the nightmare of security sieving inherent to another F-16 Deal Of The Century.
And THAT folks is where the rubber really meets the road. Because the defense budget is and always will be the largest single 'discretionary' (not
preprogrammed) line item in our yearly national spending. And so when Congress sees 257 billion dollars in allocateable (five year plan) promisory
notes going to their /districts/ THEY invent reasons to keep the JSF in production.
It is not needed. It is not appropriate for todays or tomorrows mission environments. And what SHOULD replace it, is not a fighter (any more than
the JSF itself is) but an uninhabited cruise missile with landing gear. Whose sensors we can 'plug into' (using unjammable satcomms) on an
as-needed basis. But whose principle function in life is to take the 3,000 odd tactical airframes now in service. And shrink the budget dedicated to
them by making it possible for a USAF jet to land on a Navy deck with JPALS 40cm/19 inch precision.
The F-22 is dead. It never had a hope when Congress ran the foreign-sales profit-uber-alles numbers. But the JSF is dead too. Because the Military
cannot make useful service from it using the current numbers and yesterdays operating paradigm. And using tomorrows paradigm, numbers may well be the
only thing that saves us when we have to fight a threatforce possessed of DEWs. Or one which is so remote that we cannot interdict their
donkey-logistics with manned systems that can be counted on the fingers of one's hands.