posted on Feb, 1 2008 @ 09:59 PM
Hmm, very interesting to say the least, Boeing is already focusing on the next generation US fighter. I suppose while Lockheed is busy developing the
F-35 and still producing the F-22A Boeing sees an opportunity to take the lead after loosing the JSF contract. Overall this is good for the US and
I’d like to see the DoD fund and encourage Boeing to further develop this fighter. It’s interesting to note that the ATF program was initiated
just a mere 5 years after the first F-15 entered operational service, in light of new Russian progress and development. Now we see a similar pattern
emerging of multiple countries developing or hinting at possibly acquiring foreign 5th Gen fighters. Hence we need to being developing the counter
even though the Raptor will more than hold its own for decades to come.
The USN currently likes the Super Hornet as an airframe and is looking to procure Super Hornets (Block II) until around 2012, which would dovetail
nicely with introduction of the Block III. There has been quite a concern in the Navy regarding the future state of the current force. Some of the
legacy Hornets are expanding their remaining airframe hours before they can be replaced by the Super Hornets due to the high temp in operations since
September 11. And some of the new Super Hornets are also using their airframe hours faster than anticipated which means they might not serve as much
time as originally estimated, this could mean costly rebuilds later on in the program or a shortage in available fighters. Couple this with the
lowered per year production number of the F-35 and you have a potentially serious situation. Especially IF, and I must stress that, there are
delays with the F-35 program. So the chances that the Navy will procure the Block III are rather good, even if it would overlap with F-35C production.
If the current tempo in ops is sustained the USN will have no choice but to procure more Super Hornets. The Marines on the other hand are totally
committed to the F-35B and don't really have a reason to purchase more Hornets, hence why they skipped out on Super Hornet purchases.
I'm really interested to see how the Block III stacks up though, the current Block II has an incredible avionic, weapon and sensor suite coupled with
a significant amount of LO features. The Block III might feature even more range, more powerful engines, more emphasis on VLO and even newer and more