The U.S Navy has sought technical insights from the defense industry for the next-generation replacement for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler in the 2030s, USNI reported.
The Technical Interchange Meetings (TIMs) to be conducted are a sign to an analysis of alternatives (AOA) for the F/A-XX strike fighter aircraft replacement program that is expected to start in 2015.
The TIMs are to focus on several areas including affordability, modifying current jets (Super Hornet and F-35C) to meet the F/A-XX requirement according to a posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.
The Navy might also explore other options like including a completely new aircraft design or a Family of Systems (FoS) approach. The TIMs will also discuss mission systems, avionics and next-gen weapon systems for the F/A-XX according to the report. The AoA is intended to start in the coming year.
“The platform itself may or may not be a new one, nor focused on manned or unmanned. Rather it truly is going to look at filling a void from a FoS approach informed by future budgets,” a Naval Officer was quoted as saying.
Under the Navy’s vision for its Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) battle network, an individual platform would not necessarily need to have a full suite of sensors—rather it could rely on off-board data.
Data-linked information from another platform in the air such as the Northrop Grumman E-2D or at sea like an Aegis cruiser or destroyer could provide targeting information or even guide a weapon launched from a platform like a future F/A-XX.
“So the F/A-XX may show up as something that is a Hornet-like aircraft with new weapons that can strike further and allow the Navy to fight its way into an AOR (Area of Responsibility) – maximizing the range of its weapon systems with linked fire control. As it stands now with NIFC-CA not implemented yet, our missiles can go further than we can tell them to, he added.
Therefore, the F/A-XX air vehicle might be more of a “truck” carrying a “payload” rather than a fully integrated weapons platform like a Super Hornet or F-35 that can find, fix, track, target, engage, and assess on its own.