Well, They Would Say That, Wouldn’t They?*

Boeing is suggesting that the US Navy would be better served by evolving the existing F/A-18 rather than spending two decades to develop another hyper-expensive stealth fighter. (paid subscription required)

Boeing is making a statement in own interest. It sells the F-18.

Boeing also happens to be right in this case: Development programs that are egregiously expensive and span decades do not produce weapons that work properly.

Either they perform poorly, or they are too expensive to deploy in the numbers in which they would be needed:

Boeing has cautioned the U.S. Navy against getting locked into another 20-year aircraft development program as it reaches for the F/A-XX, the service’s next carrier warplane.

The company says continuing to evolve the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet through Block 3 beginning in fiscal 2019 and a potential Block 4 follow-on modernization program as a complement to the Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II is the most prudent path forward to satisfy an immediate need for greater numbers of strike fighters with advanced capabilities.

Boeing says low-radar-cross-section airframes are useful for the first day of war and flying into denied areas guarded by X-band radars. But the integrated air defense radars of potential adversaries such as Russia and China have moved into different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as C-band and S-band. Buying into a next-generation stealth aircraft development program under F/A-XX might not be the best answer to meet current and future threats, Boeing believes.


“For the Navy, and I think for a lot of countries, don’t lock yourself into a 20-year development cycle and a platform you’re stuck with for X amount of years,” says Larry Burt, a former naval aviator and now Boeing’s director of global sales and marketing for global strike programs. “Don’t make a big revolutionary step. Keep evolving what you’ve got. You could keep evolving the mission systems, sensors and capability of the Super Hornet and maybe eventually put a new wrapper on it.”

With the 2nd most protracted and dysfunctional weapons development program in the world (India’s is worse), they are right.

US defense procurement is a racket, with the contractors spreading sub-contractors to the districts of powerful Congressmen, and providing lucrative sinecures to the generals involved in their retirement.

*Yes, this is a reference to Mandy Rice-Davies.

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