Faced with delays in the adoption of the F-35, the U.S. Navy is trying to keep F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet fighters flying until replacements arrive. According to Military Times, the service is stretching the lifespan of existing planes, keeping them in the air far longer than originally planned.Yep.
The U.S. Navy's F/A-18C Hornets comprise half of the fighter force on a typical Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. These older Hornets, known as "legacy Hornets" to differentiate them from the Super Hornet, were only meant to fly an average 6,000 hours.
Generally speaking, this works out to about 20 years of peacetime flying. The problem? Most of the "legacy Hornets" were bought in the 1980s, making them roughly 30 years old. The period from 1991 to 2015 also have seen a higher operating tempo than expected, with an nearly continuous stream of wars, peacekeeping missions, no-fly zones, and punitive actions requiring air power.
The Navy plans to replace legacy Hornets with the carrier version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—a process that should have started three years ago. The Navy was originally supposed to declare the F-35C ready for combat in 2012.
Unfortunately, the F-35 is running the better part of a decade behind schedule, and Initial Operating Capability, as the combat ready status is known, has been pushed that back to 2018 or even 2019.
Now, the last of the legacy Hornets is expected to be retired in 2022, and even that date could be pushed back by delays in the F-35 program (and government funding) staying on track.
The only real "good news" in this story is that the MSM is FINALLY latching onto the reality that is the F-35.
But we already know the story don't we? The program has been allowed to continue on and because it costs so much money, its caused a financial trainwreck for all the services.
Additionally we know that the "cost curve" isn't bending and that the Pentagon, Senators and even Service Officials are talking about buying other planes to help fill the gap.
The only real question is when do they finally admit that they failed.