USN requests 28 Super Hornets,10 ships for 2012

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The Navy Department has proposed buying 28 Super Hornets, building 10 ships, and scrapping a Marine ship-to-shore tank as part of its $176.4 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2012.

The Navy on Monday requested a baseline of $161.4 billion for fiscal 2012, up $800 million from last year’s proposal. However, Congress never approved that budget, and the federal government is relying on an extension of last year’s funds called a continuing resolution, a bankroll that expires in early March. That extension has left the Navy grappling with misappropriated funds and a de facto $5.7 billion cut.

“It’s a crisis on the secretary’s doorstep, it’s a crisis for the Navy,” Rear Adm. Joseph Mulloy, a Navy budget official, said of the funding impasse at a Pentagon press briefing Monday.

The $18.6 billion aviation request includes the purchase of 67 F/A-18 E and F Super Hornets through fiscal 2016, 41 more of the airplanes than previously planned. Of those airplanes, 28 would be bought in the fiscal 2012 and another 28 in fiscal 2013. Additionally, the budget calls for 72 F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters through fiscal 2016, down from the 74 previously planned.

The first seven carrier-ready planes will be purchased in the next fiscal year. Mulloy said the reduction was due to sequencing at Lockheed Martin’s assembly plant. The budget also scraps 65 F-35Bs, a Marine Corps version of the airplane that is capable of taking off and landing on small runways.

The Navy will also build more P-8A maritime patrol craft than originally planned. Previous budgets called for nine airplanes, but now the Navy wants 11.

Some programs went untouched. For example, the Navy still wants 30 MV-22B, 24 MH-60R and 18 MC-60S helicopters.

The Navy is ramping up shipbuilding, with two more ships than previously planned. The Navy plans to build two Virginia-class attack submarines; one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer; four littoral combat ships, double the two planned for this year; one San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock; one joint high speed vessel; and a second mobile landing platform auxiliary. The total price tag for the Navy’s shipbuilding plan is $14.1 billion.

- Navytimes

F-35B On Probation while New Bomber To Go Forward

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Defense Secretary Robert Gates has put the U.S. Marine Corps’ troubled F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical landing (Stovl) Joint Strike Fighter on “probation,” while endorsing the U.S. Air Force’s long-coveted new bomber program.

The F-35A and F-35C models emerged unscathed from Gates’ review. However, the F-35B “is experiencing significant testing problems,” Gates said at the Pentagon yesterday, Jan. 6.

Implying that problems are more serious than previously reported, he adds that “these issues may lead to a redesign of the aircraft’s structure and propulsion — changes that could add yet more weight and more cost to an aircraft that has little capacity to absorb more of either.”

The JSF test program will be restructured so that testing of the F-35A and F-35C runs ahead of the B model, rather than the other way around. If the B model cannot be “fixed or gotten back on track” in two years, “I believe it should be canceled,” Gates says.

Delays to F-35B testing so far — fewer than a dozen vertical landings have been logged since March 2010 — have been publicly attributed to a problem with the auxiliary engine inlet door, and individually minor issues with components such as cooling fans.

More details of changes to the JSF program also emerged, including another delay in the completion of systems development and demonstration (SDD) and a cut-down production ramp. SDD is now delayed to early 2016, versus mid-2015 as planned in the restructuring of the program early last year. SDD finishes with the conclusion of development testing and precedes initial operational testing and evaluation, so the move likely will push initial operational capability (IOC) into 2017. (The individual services are assessing their IOC dates.) This will cost an additional $4.6 billion to the program.

The Fiscal 2012 JSF buy — low-rate initial production (LRIP) Lot V — will be held at 32 aircraft, both to reduce concurrency and because “the final assembly process at Fort Worth is still maturing,” Gates says. Deliveries at this point are late by multiple months.

Gates indicated in response to questions that a last-ditch appeal by Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos and his predecessor may have saved the B-model from outright cancellation. Gates said the commandants made a convincing argument for more time to fix the program.

Meanwhile, in a major breakthrough for advocates of long-distance airpower, Gates strongly endorsed a program for “a new long-range, nuclear-capable penetrating bomber.” The Air Force has been struggling to get this program reinstated since Gates deferred development of the so-called “2018 bomber” in 2009, against the opposition of some senior Pentagon leaders who argued that smaller unmanned aircraft, plus cruise and ballistic missiles, could adequately supplement existing bombers in the foreseeable future.

-aviationweek.com

Navy’s first stealth fighter arrives at PAX

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The first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, the U.S. Navy’s first stealth fighter, arrived at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md., on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 2:37 p.m.

The aircraft, piloted by David “Doc” Nelson, departed NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base at 11:31 a.m. (Eastern) and achieved successful air refuels at a maximum load of 19,800 pounds during the flight. At Patuxent River, the F-35C will conduct air-to-air refueling and performance testing.

The F-35 Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), integrates advanced very low observable stealth into a supersonic, highly agile 5th generation fighter. The capabilities built into the F-35 Lightning II provide the pilot with unprecedented situational awareness and unmatched lethality and survivability.

While each variant (F-35A, F-35B, F-35C) is uniquely designed to operate from different bases, all three variants set new standards in network-enabled mission systems, sensor fusion, supportability and maintainability.

- Lockheed Martin

“We need to move into the F-35C” – Navy Rear Adm. Michael C. Manazir

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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 F-35C is the aircraft-carrier version of the joint strike fighter. The F-35A model is for the Air Force, and the F-35B will be a vertical take-off and landing model for the Marines.

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.

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