My first reaction to that headline can be best summed up as, “Wait — what?”
The longer version goes like this. I thought the F-35C was supposed to replace the Navy’s air fleet of Hornets and Super Hornets. And that since we were unlikely to ever buy enough pricy F-35Cs to do the job, that the Navy would turn to drones — a nice compliment to the increased automation on board the new ships we also won’t buy enough of. So what’s this artist’s rendering of a manned stealth fighter?
From the report:
The new aircraft and its associated “family of systems” would be expected to become operational around 2035.
“We’re doing study work right now to neck down what it is that we’re going to spend our money on in the analysis of alternatives,” Rear Adm. Mike Manazir told USNI News on Dec. 20.
“But at the beginning of fiscal year ’15, we will start that analysis of alternatives, which will then start the acquisition process to get an airplane in 2030.”
The Navy does not yet know what kind of aircraft the F/A-XX will be, but the service is working on defining exactly what capabilities it will need when the Super Hornet fleet starts to exhaust their 9,000-hour airframe lives around 2035.
“Right now our effort is take the F/A-18E/F off and list everything you lose,” Manazir said. “Now, how do you service that?”
2035? It’ll be a drone.