US military indicates Navy F-35C is only version at risk for F-18 SuperHornet replacement

Of the three types of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, only the US Navy’s carrier-launched F-35C is at risk of being replaced by Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet, the Marine Corps’s top pilot said today. It’s not on the table to substitute Hornets for either the land-based F-35A variant or the vertical-takeoff-and-landing F-35B, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy Commandant for aviation said today.

Those instructions come from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a former Marine infantryman himself, who on Jan. 27 ordered two “parallel” reviews of the F-35: one of the program in general to find “opportunities to significantly reduce the cost of the F-35”; and one of the F-35C specifically as compared to “an advanced Super Hornet.” Trump had proposed to replace the F-35 — not specifying any particular model — with “a comparable F-18 Super Hornet.”

The current US plan is that the Marine Corps will purchase 340 of the F-35B and 80 of the F-35C, while the Navy will purchase 260 of the F-35C. The US Air force plans to buy 1,763 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant.

The F18 does not have vertical takeoff capability but it would not be unreasonable to look at displacing some of the US Air Force F35A order.