Thursday, January 19, 2012

U.S. Navy Document Plans Carrier Air Wings’ Future

The U.S. Navy’s carrier air wings of tomorrow will look very different from today’s, according to a new document produced by the sea services.
By 2032, the Navy’s fleet of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters and new EA-18G Growler electronic attack jets will have begun to be replaced by new types, a new document called Naval Aviation Vision 2012 says.
The Navy will consider manned, unmanned and optionally manned aircraft to replace the long serving Rhino, as the F/A-18E/F is known to carrier deck crews. The Super Hornet will begin to reach the end of its service life around 2025 and must be replaced. The document says a competitive fly-off will be held at some point in the future.
The Super Hornet-derived EA-18G will also start being replaced by a new aircraft, but the document offers no further details.
Additionally, a new Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) is to be integrated onto the carrier deck around 2018 — possibly with four to six planes embarked. The aircraft could make use of technologies developed by the X-47B program. The Navy document calls for “balanced survivability” so that the unmanned strike plane will be effective in “specified tactical situations.”
The F-35C will serve alongside these prospective aircraft.
But the Navy isn’t going to stop with replacing just its fixed-wing assets, as the document calls for the wholesale replacement of its helicopter fleet.
The MH-60 helicopter fleet will be supplanted by a new rotary-wing aircraft. The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter will also be replaced as will the MH-53E Sea Dragon counter-mine and heavy lift helicopter. In the case of the MH-53E, a replacement aircraft needs to be operational by 2026, the document says.
The Marines will get a Cargo Resupply Unmanned Aerial System (CRUAS) by 2032, and the service’s entire fleet of tactical remotely operated drones will be replaced. The Navy will continue to fly the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance version of the Global Hawk unmanned plane in 2032.
The training aircraft fleet will look similar to today’s, the document says. The T-6 and T-45C will soldier on, as will the TH-57 training helicopter. But the T-44 and TC-12B multi-engine turboprop trainers will be replaced with a new aircraft. The Marines’ C-20 and Navy’s C-26D and UC-12 fleets will also be replaced. As well, a new plane will take the place of the C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery plane starting in 2026.
Nor has the Navy forgotten about its fleet of F-5 and F-16 aggressor aircraft. A replacement aggressor aircraft is envisioned for 2025, according to the document.

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