Tuesday, March 26, 2013

If the Military’s Future Stealth Jet Fails, the Navy’s Got a Backup Plan

A Super Hornet lands aboard the carrier USS <em>Dwight D. Eisenhower</em>. <em>Photo: Navy</em>  

The U.S. Navy is carefully backing away from the troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program — and putting in place a backup plan in case the trillion-dollar, jack-of-all-trades stealth jet can’t recover from mounting technical and budgetary woes. So much for the F-35 being too big to fail.

The Navy’s Plan B is still taking shape. But its outlines are coming into view, thanks in large part to recent comments from its top officer. It involves fewer F-35s (the Navy’ll still buy some) and more copies of the older Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet carrier-based fighter, which the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 was originally meant to replace. In the unlikely event the F-35C — the naval version of the radar-evading plane — gets canceled, the Super Hornet could be upgraded past its current shelf life. The twin-engine F/A-18E/F is already getting new weapons. Extra fuel tanks and some stealth treatments could be added as well.

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