The U.S. Navy’s next fighter will be designed exclusively for naval service and without cooperation that will result in variants for other services. The unnamed fighter, tentatively named F/A-XX, will replace the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter on the decks of navy carriers sometime in the 2030s.
Flightglobal, reporting from the Navy League Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland, states the navy has decided it has different priorities than the U.S. Air Force. Angie Knappenberger, USN deputy director of air warfare, told reporters that the Navy does not plan on using the fighter to penetrate enemy airspace, a key requirement for the U.S. Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) jet.
NGAD will replace the F-22 Raptor, the first fifth generation fighter in U.S. military service. In addition to stealth, sensors, and lethality, the aircraft’s design will emphasize on long range, potentially accompanying bombers such as the upcoming B-21 Raider on deep penetration missions far into enemy territory.
The Navy, by contrast, plans to use standoff missiles for deep penetration missions, or hand the missions off entirely to the Air Force. The Navy doesn’t want capabilities it doesn’t plan to use, which should lower costs. The aircraft will likely share some commonality with the F-35C, the carrier-based version of the F-35.
Current Navy carrier air wings each have four fighter squadrons equipped with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The near term goal is to replace half of the Super Hornet fleet, the older half, with the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter. The -C carrier variant features a slightly larger wing, longer range, and sturdier, more robust landing gear than the standard -A version. The long term goal is for F/A-XX to replace the remaining Super Hornets, leaving each air wing with two F-35C squadrons and two F/A-XX squadrons.
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