Defense Secretary James Mattis is ordering a Pentagon review to compare the capabilities and cost between the emerging carrier-based Lockheed Martin F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter and an upgraded version of the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, according to a memo obtained by USNI News.
The three-paragraph directive orders Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work to, “oversee a review that compares F-35C and F/A-18 E/F operational capabilities and assesses the extent that F/A-18E/F improvements (an advanced Super Hornet) can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative.”
The memo also directs Work to look at the overall F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to find opportunities to significantly reduce cost while maintaining the requirements for the program.
While the public has paid more attention to split between the JSF and the Super Hornet since Trump’s comments in December, the idea of an upgraded, stealthier F/A-18 E/F is not new.
In 2013, Boeing revealed the Advanced Super Hornet concept that took the existing design and added new sensors, a stealthy pod that would provide some of the radar cross section reduction of an internal weapons bay, dorsal conformal fuel tanks to extend the range of the fighter and new engines.