The Navy needs the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter‘s fifth-generation capabilities, according to Navy Rear Adm. Michael C. Manazir .
The service’s acting director of air warfare spoke to reporters because he wanted to “completely dispel the rumor that the Navy is soft on F-35C.
The FA-18E and FA-18F Super Hornets are great airplanes, Manazir said, but they do not have the capabilities that the F-35C’s will bring to the Navy. Delays in the joint strike fighter program and the cost increases associated with them caused some supposition that the Navy would turn to the FA-18s, he added.
The Navy has had the F-35C on its horizon for more than a decade, the admiral said. In that time, the FA-18′s capabilities have grown, with the latest aircraft – the E, F and G models – reaching the fourth-generation airframe’s limits. “We need to move into the F-35C to realize our vision of tactical air coming off of carriers,” he said.
“We’re completely committed to the F-35C,” he added, noting that staying with the Super Hornet would put the United States at a disadvantage against a near-peer competitor.
Still, the admiral said, the Super Hornet program is not ending, just yet. The Navy wants to buy 124 of the aircraft through fiscal 2013 to bring its number of Super Hornets to 515. Beginning in fiscal 2016, he said, aircraft carriers will deploy with a mix of Super Hornets and F-35C’s.