DoD Special Briefing on "SUPER HORNET" Operation Evaluation Results
(Also participating: Rear Admiral Robert Besal, Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force; Rear Admiral Thomas Jurkowsky, Chief of Navy Information; Captain James B. Godwin, F/A-18 Program Manager; and Captain Robert Rutherford, Commanding Officer, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine)
Rear Admiral Craig Quigley (DASD, Public Affairs): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. There are two briefings scheduled for this afternoon. The first here is several briefers from the Navy, led by Rear Admiral John Nathman, that will discuss the F/A-18E/F, the Super Hornet's OPEVAL progress. That will go until about a quarter after one. And then we'll have a 15-minute break in there for a filing break, and what have you, and then start at 1:30 with the regular Tuesday-Thursday press brief.
So, Admiral Nathman, all yours.
Admiral Nathman: Thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you are aware, the purpose of this particular availability is to brief and announce the results of the operational tests and evaluations of the F/A-18E/F, the Super Hornet. You know the report itself is classified, but I brought with me a fairly talented panel here to help answer your questions, and I'd like to introduce them now.
Captain Jim Godwin, who is the program manager for the Super Hornet; Admiral Bob Besal, who is the commander of all Naval Operational Test and Evaluation Forces; and Captain Bob Rutherford, who is the commanding officer of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine, located in China Lake. Bob and his squadron actually tested the airplane operationally.
The CNO received the operational report yesterday. The results were the best we could hope for. The airplane was rated operationally effective and operationally suitable. This is the highest grade the aircraft could receive. We believe we have a very mature aircraft here; we believe we have an aircraft that's ready for the fleet.
The Super Hornet completed what we feel is the most rigorous acquisition process in DOD. It's, frankly, in our view, the best buy for naval aviation and the Navy, and we certainly see it as a great buy for the American taxpayer. And I think we'll talk to some of those details in a minute.
I think it would be important right now also to recognize and to thank, I think the men and women of both the operational and development test group, particularly Naval Aviation Systems Command, the program, VX-9, and, of course, the Boeing Company for their aircraft.
Many of you, I think, are aware that this past weekend, the National Aeronautic Association, announced that the Super Hornet program and the Boeing Corporation company were announced as the winners of the 1999 Robert J. Collier Award for the Greatest Achievement in Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1999.
So it is a very prestigious award and the timing is great as far as we're concerned.
I think the results of this particular evaluation should be put in context with how we see the Super Hornet will contribute to the naval mission, particularly of our expeditionary forces. As you are aware, our expeditionary forces are deployed around the world -- the Western Pacific, off of Korea, the Persian Gulf, and, of course, in the Mediterranean. We've responded many times to crisis both in the Gulf, in the Mediterranean recently in crisis off of Taiwan, and, of course, in the straits.
Our mission there, of course, is for stability, stability for diplomacy and stability in our military relationships with the nations in the littorals. Failing that, the mission of the Navy very closely turns to establishing and sustaining maritime dominance. Why? It assures access for expeditionary forces. It also assures that we can flow forces into that particular region. And part of the primacy of that particular mission is to project power. And we projected power recently in Kosovo, we project power every day in Operation Southern Watch, in air presence over Bosnia, and also recent operations in southern Iraq in Desert Strike.
Now, we believe the Super Hornet, the E/F, to be a decisive strike fighter for the Navy. It brings about a fundamental revolution in striking capability to our air wing. So let me talk to that for a minute. This is an airplane, when you put it on our flight decks in numbers and you combine it with the joint standoff munitions and the joint direct attack munitions and laser-guided weapons, if you compare the air wing that we're moving to, you are going to see an order-of- magnitude change in the number of targets that we can strike versus the type of wings that we had in Desert Storm. So over a very short period of less than two decades, you're seeing a revolution in capability. You're not talking about an airplane anymore where it's the number of airplanes per target; you are talking about the number of targets that you can strike and destroy with one aircraft.
To remind, we have been on a path for strike fighters in our tactical aviation for some time. We introduced the F-18A and B into our fleet in the early '80s. We have migrated and developed the fighter, the F-14 Tomcat, into a strike fighter.
And so this is a logical thing for us to do, to continue that migration. But we're doing it with an airplane that I think brings about decisive striking capability.
We are replacing the F-18C because of growth issues. We can no longer grow the airplane to the threat. We are replacing the F-14 because, frankly, that airplane runs out of life. We introduced that into the fleet, I believe, in 1972. We're running out of life in that particular aircraft and we're seeing some very high supportability costs while maintaining a great capability in the fleet.
So what does the Super Hornet bring to this Navy's mission, the expeditionary mission? I'll go through some of what I call "enhancing attributes" of the particular aircraft and how important they are to us.
First, much extended range in endurance. In the interdiction mode, which I think the airplane will be operated in frequently from our flight decks in support of a joint task force commander, it brings about a 40 percent increase in range, as compared to the Hornet that we have on our flight decks today, and that means much expanded target set coverage. It also brings about basically a 50 percent increase in on-station time for battlefield area interdiction and for close-air support. That's critically important. Besides the number of weapons it'll have on board, it's important for that Marine commander or for that Army commander to have the dwell time, as well as the ability to destroy targets, but have the dwell time out there for that aircraft.
Increased payload. This is an airplane that, in its normal configuration from a flight deck, you'll see it deploy with a full, robust set of aerial capability. So if we get into an air superiority issue, I think this airplane would be able to shape the airspace decisively to allow it to strike. Remember, we bought this airplane primarily as a striker, and that's what we see as our mission, is it's ability to project power. But along with that, we will double what I think, essentially, is the striking power on our Super Hornet as compared to our regular Hornet.
And I go back to that point, we talk about this -- you've seen this in a lot of the briefs that we saw in Allied Force on these things called "DMPIs" -- Designated Main Points of Impact. We're going to launch this airplane from our flight decks and I have no doubt we will have junior officers out there, both men and women, flying missions where they will fly and they will service, or attack and destroy, four or five different DMPIs on one particular mission. Okay?
The other thing that I think the airplane brings that we have not had for a while, it will bring the capability in this increased payload to bring about a mission tanker back to our flight decks. We've not had a mission tanker on our flight decks in numbers since we decommissioned the KA-6s, and as you know, we migrated that mission to the S-3. It's a capable tanker around the ship for safety; it does not meet our needs as a mission tanker. Now, this airplane has the ability to carry an immense amount of gas, more than the S-3 in almost all configuration, and it matches the profiles of the strike groups to optimize their range, in addition to the extended range we buy with the aircraft itself. So I think what we're doing now is we're going to be able to put back a mission tanker on our flight decks.
Increased bring-back. Why is that important? Every day we compromise a little bit on this.
Why? Because we are asked to play air presence over Bosnia; we are asked to enforce the no-fly zones in Southern Iraq. And when we do that, we have to launch because typically we don't expend ordnance over those missions, They are there on call if the Joint Forces Air Commander needs them.
And so typically, those aircraft, our F/A-18s, bring that ordnance back to the ship. Now, what that means is we often have to compromise on the loads those aircraft have, when they are launched, so that we can have what I think -- the requisite amount of fuel internal with the aircraft so it can be safely flown around the ship.
And so what we have seen the Super Hornet now is, not only can you carry an immense weapons load, but we brought about an immense bring-back capability. Admiral -- select --Godwin will talk about that a little bit in terms of the numbers. But what it does is really improves the efficiency and the safety of that aircraft around the flight deck.
Increased survivability. I think what we have got in this airplane is an airplane that's going to penetrate, deliver weapons decisively and survive. Now, let me show you an example of that.
One of the things that -- you know, this airplane will basically service twice the number of targets in half the time of the current Hornet. And that alone just allows you to shape the battle space effectively enough that you are reducing the amount of risk because you are reducing the amount of missions that you have to fly from our flight decks, to properly shape the battle space for the conditions for success for the unified or the joint commander. That's a key feature.
But the other part of it is we are building it into the airplane. We are building in what I'd call a combat hardness in the way the airplane is designed. We are building it in with a shaped -- a reduced-radar cross-section of the airplane that allows it to penetrate. We are building it into the maneuverability. We are building it into what I call a robust defensive electronic countermeasure system. And we are building it in because it will give the pilots superb situational awareness. And you combine that with the way the Navy flies its con ops, and I think you have got an airplane that really does bring about great survivability and great decisive power-projection capability.
Growth potential. The growth potential of this airplane is important. Why? Because we think this airplane is going to be on our flight decks for a while. This airplane has significant growth in weight, in volume, in cooling power and electrical power. Why is that important? Because what we feel -- we're not sure where the threat's going to go, but you have to anticipate that. And you need to grow this airplane to the threat. And on top -- on that I will add that we have a road map to the future that allows us to grow this airplane to the threat, and I'd like to talk a little bit about those.
The first is an advanced targeting FLIR [Forward Looking Infrared Radar], which makes up for many of the deficiencies we have with the current targeting FLIR on the aircraft we are flying now on our flight decks. That FLIR will deploy with the airplane on its first deployment.
A block approach, improvement and upgrades through integrated defensive electronic countermeasures; very important to the aircraft. A helmet-mounted cueing system for the pilot, along with an AIM-9X, which provides what I think is superb dog-fighting capability. This is an airplane that can right the nose around, point it at an aircraft, bring the AIM-9X into its envelope, cue with the helmet- mounted system and kill the threat.
And then for the stand-off, for the beyond-visual range, we will fly with the same radar missile that our sister service does, the Air Force, the AIM-120 AMRAAM. And we will equip the airplane with an advanced -- an electronically scanned array radar that will -- is very what I call compatible with the signature of that aircraft and will fully support that missile to end-game against the threat.
Let me conclude by saying that for us, the OPEVAL is the best results we could hope for. We have an airplane that's rated and judged operationally effective and suitable. It's on schedule. It's on budget. This is a very mature aircraft and weapons system right now. This is an aircraft with over 7,000 -- almost 7,000 flight hours right now, and we intend to deploy this and send it to our fleet. It's ready for the fleet. We'll deploy this aircraft in 2002 on the Abraham Lincoln Battle Group.
Q: Admiral, could I just quickly ask you what is --
Admiral Nathman: Well, what I think we'd like to do is get maybe through -- if we could, through these statements. And we don't have many. I --
Q: All I'm asking is, what does this mean in terms of full -- you're going to full-scale production this spring anyway, right? It doesn't rest on this decision. It's already been made -- to go to full-scale production, has it?
Admiral Nathman: Actually, I'm going to let Captain Godwin talk about it. That's a very good question, sir. But Captain Godwin has a few comments, and I think Captain Rutherford does, too. But I think this group up here can help answer your questions.
Captain Godwin: As the admiral said, I'm the F-18 program manager, been on the job for pretty near three years now. And I've met with several of you in the distant past here.
I think one of the things -- the key things that you're going to continue to hear as we talk throughout the day today is "operationally effective" and "operationally suitable." That is the bottom line of everything that we're talking about today. So please carry that one away.
We've talked about maturity of the product. We saw that during our previous OT period. We heard that again this time. And I think that's a testament to what's happened here on the way in development.
But most importantly, I think, was the recommendation that we got out of OPEV 4 [OPTEST for Operational Test & Evaluation Forces], which said you're ready for full fleet implementation. So we will press forward with that.
The OPEVAL consisted of three E aircraft, single-seat airplanes, and four Fs. There was 866 sorties flown, 1,233.9 flight hours. I'll slow down a little bit. There's 23 aircrew that flew missions, and that is all varieties. So we had F-14 pilots and weapons systems operators, as well as A-6 weapons systems operators, and we had F-18- experienced folks flying as well.
We had 54 maintenance personnel that were Navy bluejackets that were maintaining the aircraft. They dropped 420,000 pounds of ordnance -- a little more than that. And they went on three detachments. They went to Key West to do the tactics development. They went to -- and they fought against adversary aircraft. They went to U.S.S. John C. Stennis for the air wing integration, so that they could see how they fit with Carrier Air Wing Nine. And that's once again where we saw the robustness of the aircraft, the maturity. And then they went for joint interoperability at Red Flag and Nellis Air Force Base.
There were no surprises with what we saw out of the OPEVAL report, and what we predicted we would see during the developmental testing that we had had ongoing prior to OPEVAL is pretty much what we saw as a result of the OPEVAL report.
It reinforced the five pillars of the program, which I've talked about time and again -- range, payload, survivability, growth, and bring-back -- key things that we've continued to foundationally build the airplane on.
And a couple of enhancing characteristics that came out of the report, once again, just reinforce the key pillars of the program, and the specific one that I chose to share with you was the bring-back. Once again, what Admiral Nathman had talked about: 9,500 pounds of fuel or ordnance that they are allowed to use to come back aboard the ship, and that was a tremendous capability.
We didn't only see good things came out of it. We saw deficiencies as well, and one of those deficiencies that we saw was a legacy system that we carried over from the F-18C/D days. A targeting FLIR, and it had problems with resolution and magnification and, as Admiral Nathman has said, that will be resolved as we take the advanced targeting [AT] FLIR on first deployment with those aircraft.
In addition to that, we saw some things that we found late in the game where the ability to distinguish between the F-18C and the F-18E aboard the carrier, especially during the daytime, was a problem for us. Therefore, we implemented a resolution to that that they took with them. When they went aboard the Stennis they saw that that worked pretty well, and that will be incorporated in low-rate initial production lot number two and three, and then will be just a normal part of regular full-rate production.
The road ahead for us. The OPEVAL report was given yesterday to DOT&E [Director Operational Test and Evaluation], Mr. Phil Coyle, and now they will take that report and turn that into the Beyond LRIP [Low Rate Initial Production] work report which essential to me. And this answers your question, sir, about what is ---- what's the next steps that we've got to go through. I have to have the Beyond LRIP report from DOT&E, which allows me then to proceed to full-rate production. I have to go to my milestone decision authority, which is ASNRD&A, Dr. Lee Buchanan, and we will do that on the 30th of March. And then we will proceed from that to the secretary of Defense who, by statutory requirement, in last year's law, has to report on three things: that it was a successful OPEVAL, that it met the KPPs, and that we can assure that we have 7.4 percent savings for the multi-year procurement.
So those --
Q: He reports to Congress?
Captain Godwin: He reports that to Congress, and then, after 30 days, after the letter is delivered to Congress 30 days later, we are allowed to go on contract with the Boeing company for that multi-year.
Q: When do you expect to have that, at the earliest?
Captain Godwin: Well, it's all dependent on when the letter gets out of the Secretary of Defense's office and when it's received by Congress, and it's 30 sitting days of Congress, is what it would be.
I've got one more -- go ahead.
Q: KPPs -- KPPs, what is that?
Captain Godwin: Key Performance Parameters. We had a schedule that we developed in 1991 that took us into the development of the airplane, and we have delivered on that schedule today.
And I think that's a testament to the folks that have worked on this program along the way. And it's essentially remained unchanged to this day.
So with that, I'd like to introduce Captain Bob Rutherford, the skipper of the squadron, to talk to you for a second.
Captain Rutherford: Good afternoon. I'm Captain Bob Rutherford. I am the commanding officer of VX-9. My background has been Hornets for the bulk of my career, having featured three operational squadron tours, including command of an operational carrier-based F-18 squadron. My experience includes 4,000 hours of tactical jet time, 2,700 hours of which has been F-18 of all variants, including the E/F.
I had the pleasure in August of last year of taking command of VX-9 halfway through the F-18E/F OPEVAL, and I also enjoyed taking the squadron to Nellis Air Force Base for the red flag detachment, which was a valid test of the aircraft's joint interoperability capabilities.
I think my predecessors today have offered a consistent theme, and that is we got a very good look at the aircraft, we judged it very much on qualitative bases, and we found it to be operationally effective, operationally suitable. We're recommending it for fleet introduction. And these conclusions are based on demonstrated capability of the aircraft, which we qualitatively assessed to be -- to represent a greater capability than the existing C in both lethality, survivability and operational flexibility.
Captain Godwin: I think we'd like to start taking your questions as you've got them. Yes, ma'am?
Q: The OT&E's report on this mentioned that one of the problems you had in the last test -- and the way I read it, it didn't seem like it was quite solved in this one -- was in a dogfight, the plane being slower, but it said the AIM-9X Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System and a couple of other things will take care of that problem. Is that going to happen before 2002, before this thing is deployed, or do those things come on in block upgrades?
Admiral Nathman: Right now the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System is scheduled for the first deployment. Like with any new system, there is some risk in that deployment. And the AIM-9X is, I believe, a year or two later for IOC [Initial Operational Capability].
Q: Does that cause you any concern to --
Admiral Nathman: No, it doesn't, because right now we're flying every day in an environment that we understand. We understand the risk. Remember, this is an airplane we grow, so we see this airplane as, when it deploys, very quickly you have a system out there that the pilot can use. You introduce the missile with it and you introduce the other upgrades to it. But we see right now in the very near term the missions -- that this airplane can very capably handle those risks.
I think Captain Rutherford may want to talk about some of the dog-fighting piece of it because I think that might be a larger question here.
So maybe I'll let the captain talk about what he sees in terms of the near-in and the dog-fighting.
Captain Rutherford: Thank you, Admiral.
Well, I think it's fair to take a look at where air combat aviation is going in the 21st century here. And you will take a look at some legacy fighter tactics that largely include and, in fact, I dare say, require that you convert the nose of your aircraft to the tail of your opponent aircraft.
Life in the 21st century is going to be a little bit different. Now you only have to have strong neck muscles and the tactic -- and the development, the technology development that will support these tactics are a Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System and a widely capable off-boresite missile employment capability as well. We see that as where this F-18 is ultimately going.
In those scenarios where the aircraft would be in a "knife fight," as we've come to call it, without benefit of the joint helmet- mounted cuing system in either aircraft, the fighter or the opponent, this aircraft will hold its own very nicely. It has extremely capable slow-speed fighting capabilities, much more pronounced than the F-18C. The directional stability of this aircraft and the high angle of attack region puts it in a league all of its own. It features a flight control system -- flight control law that's called beta-dot- feedback, which imparts directional stability to this aircraft, that its predecessor does not have.
So we think that any sort of pot shots that are taken at the aircraft in the 1 v. 1 visual arena are in fact perhaps not as -- don't hold as much water as some would suggest.
Q: This is a basic question. When you say "operationally effective and suitable," what does that mean? Compared to what?
Admiral Besal: The operational effectiveness, we looked in this particular airplane at 21 different COIs, we call it -- Critical Operational Issues. We needed to see, can the airplane perform these traditional roles and missions that would be assigned to a strike fighter airplane.
Operational suitability is different in that we want to know, can the airplane perform those missions in the environment in which it will operate. We look at 10 particular COIs in operational suitability for F-18E/F. These are what we refer to as the "ilities" -- reliability, maintainability, availability, documentation, safety, human factors, engineering, topics like that.
So those are the two different criteria that we judge the airplane by, or two different standards or segments of the evaluation.
Q: Does it have to meet all 21 and all 10 or just a majority of them?
Captain Rutherford: No, sir, it doesn't require -- we look at those under the 21 different criteria and the 10 suitability criteria, but no -- again, there is a qualitative judgment call that's made in there; it doesn't need to meet all of those criteria. The airplane does, in good numbers.
And as always, there's room for growth and improvement in any airplane that we've got.
I think that's pretty much it.
Q: In the time between when the aircraft goes aboard the Lincoln and you get the AIM-9X, are you comfortable with this airplane as a first-day-of-the-war kind of airplane, or -- and what do you have to say about the Air Force's contention that we need the F-22 as a first-day-of-war weapon to clear the battlefield, so that the Super Hornet and other strike aircraft can proceed unimpeded to the target? (Soft laughter.)
Admiral Nathman: Well, I'll try and answer that one. Then we'll let maybe Captain Rutherford.
I don't think we're going to compete this airplane against the F- 22. I think the F-22 is a superb fighter.
You remember when we -- in the introduction, when we talked about the Navy's conops, concept of operations? This airplane is not -- although it's a superb aircraft by itself, it's an airplane that we do not operate by itself. When we launch strikes, typically our strike groups are well -- very well shaped, and that's what we train to. Remember, we start training on the unit level 18 months prior to the deployment in our air wings. Then about eight months prior to deployment, we bring in integrated training. And that culminates in a four-week air wing training detachment at Fallon, Nevada, where we get into the latest tactical developments against the projected threat for that deployment. Then we follow it by many at-sea periods, primarily what we call Fleetex, and joint exercise at the end, which basically polishes not only the team but battle group staff and the commander, the air wing, the ship, and the battle group team to operate. And that's the way the airplane's going to be flown. It's going to be flown inside of Navy con ops, which provides what I think is the right level of shaping. Remember, this airplane is a striker primarily, but it's a great fighter.
And so what we see in our airplane is particularly the fact that we have the road map to protect its signature, to provide the reach, particularly with the AESA [Advanced Electronic Sensor Aperture], to find the reach to detect those kinds of targets, while we shape the signature of the aircraft, to support the radar missiles to endgame -- that's a very critical piece to us -- and then, like we talked about in the dogfighting, they have the capability, if we get in the endgame, in the day visual environment -- if we get there, the airplane has the rating capability and the weapons system and cueing to provide for that capability.
Now, we don't see that kind of threat on the near horizon. Why? Because we're flying typically where we see that we understand the threat in Korea, we certainly understand the threat in Iraq, we certainly understand the threat over the Balkans. And I don't think the bar is that high, nor do I think it will ever get high, that we can't grow this airplane to continue to be what we see the first-day- of-a-war-kind of strike fighter -- period.
Captain Godwin: Bruce?
Q: Admiral, you mentioned the AESA radar. Could you tell us when that is scheduled to reach the fleet? This will be a two-parter. That's the first part.
Captain Godwin: Do you want to ask the second part?
Q: Well, it really relies more on the first part. (Laughter.)
Admiral Nathman: Well, okay.
Jim, do you want to talk about -- AESA?
Captain Godwin: Sure.
Admiral Nathman: When it gets -- how you see --
Captain Godwin: We just down-selected to the contractor, in the last month or so, and Raytheon has that contract now. And we are in that development process now. And the first squadrons to have that radar capability will be about 2006.
Q: Okay. Two thousand and six?
Captain Godwin: Right.
Q: That's when it will first reach the fleet?
Captain Godwin: That's correct.
Q: How many aircraft will receive it at that time?
Captain Godwin: More than anything else, as we start to -- as we always do -- we start to ramp production up as we start. And so we have a fairly shallow production ramp. I think the first year of production is eight radars and then 12 and then 20 to follow that up. Those are the first three low-rate production lines.
Q: By 2006, you will have already started fielding the aircraft as of -- if everything runs on time -- how many years?
Captain Godwin: They will meet those end production flow. So as they are building airplanes, since we are buying eight radars in that year; if we have 36 aircraft, eight of them would get the radar. And the rest of them would have the APG-73, which we have in the fleet today.
Q: Okay. I guess my point is, like the other systems, you will have already fielded aircraft for a number of years prior to the insertion of this radar. And if it's so essential to improving the survivability of the aircraft, does it alarm or concern you that this aircraft could be outrun by other aircraft, as DOT&E indicated in their assessment?
Captain Godwin: Well, I think one of the first things to remember is they are fighting the aircraft that they just talked about in the as-is configuration, so with an APG-73. So based on what they just said, they say: Where we see us today; we like what we've got today. And we like the road-map things that you've got coming downstream to give us those potentials in the future, as well.
Q: Do you brief this report up to the Hill? And if so, when will you be doing that?
Captain Godwin: Well, I think what will probably happen now is we will be given opportunities for calls to come over and give the brief. We've already started to have a few of those that have occurred now. So as they come, there will be no formal brief unless one that was asked for, for us to go over and give that brief.
Q: Have you gotten a call from Mr. Feingold's office? (Laughter.)
Captain Godwin: No, I have not received a phone call from them.
Q: I just wondered, just in the underwing environment of the aircraft, if there's any more damage to the weapons simulators in the carriage rails? Is that resolved, or is it --
Captain Godwin: What we initially saw during development, we saw some issues with the noise environment underneath the wing such that we imposed some limitations on our operational testers because of that. More than anything else, no envelope restrictions, but we imposed some life limitations and some inspection criteria to ensure the safety of the weapons and the airplanes. So as we have gone through post-Christmas, January time frame, we had already done a lot of the noise and vibration testing to further define that for us. We tested the JDAM, the JSOW [Joint Stand-off Weapon], the AIM-7, the AMRAAM, the AIM-9L and M as will as the AIM-9X. The advanced targeting FLIR, to name a few.
To define that, there's a meeting that's going on today at Patuxent River to refine those numbers, but everything that we see now says that we were conservative in our approach before and that things are moving in the right direction for us. There will still be an unlimited envelope on the weapons, and now it's, more than anything else, determining the life that those weapons would lead in the fleet. And that's being --
Admiral Nathman: Perhaps you might want to comment on the fact that in your follow-on testing, you were growing the other weapons systems, which have less harsh environment.
Captain Godwin: Right. We -- remember, what we've done is, in the developmental testing that we've done to date, we cleared 29 weapons configurations for the operational testers to use. And so if you harken back to the F-18A as an example, when we delivered that aircraft to the fleet, there was two weapons configurations.
One of them was an air-to-air missile, and the other was air-to-ground practice bombs, and that was it. So what we're introducing to the fleet has got a more robust environment, but now what we have to do is flesh out the rest of those weapons. So now we have to fully define the JDAM envelope, the JSOW envelope and the other things that we have to do as we go through our weapons release process.
So we've got a lot of work to do between now and the foreseeable future with delivering those weapons capabilities so that we have the capability to carry mixed -- what we call mixed stores, so that you can carry a JSOW and a JDAM and a HARM and air-to-air missiles and targetting FLIRs all on the same aircraft at the same time and release them in any sequence that you chose to do that.
Q: Let me just hold off on that real quick. Have you given up on trying to basically make the environment more friendly? Because you're characterizing the life of the weapons. Have you basically accepted that this is the environment the Super Hornet is going to have?
Captain Godwin: What we did was we brought an independent review team in, and you've seen us do that before, to take a look at it, and they told us the path we were on was the correct way to go. And so we just continued down that path. And as we see, where we had been conservative in our estimates about life or whatever it happened to be, that we were significantly conservative and that the weapons are living much better lives than we thought they were going to live. So that was good news for us as we've gone through that. We just had not had the opportunity to do the testing, enough testing to flesh out that noise and vibration environment.
Admiral Nathman: The intent would be to open up other stations that are less harsh, obviously --
Q: Can I just ask a --
Admiral Nathman: -- (inaudible) -- the flexibility of those levels.
Q: -- follow-up? And that is, basically what are your five top action items you've taken out of this, then? And if you can just get us up to speed on where you are for an EW [electronic warfare] suite for the 2002 deployment.
Captain Godwin: The five top issues.
Q: I gather you've got, like, a dozen or so action items that you're probably going to be left with.
Captain Godwin: Well, first off, I think as a result of what I said earlier, we found no surprises as a result of what they had tested and what they reported out. So that was good for us because most of the things that they reported on, we were already in process for corrections. One of those that I talked about was the day visual I.D. as an example. That was very critical to us to make sure that we could determine the difference between an F-18E or an F-18C aboard a carrier, or F-18E/F versus a C on the carrier, for obvious reasons. The F-18C lands at a 34,000-pound gross weight, and the E/F lands at 44,000-pound gross weight. And so we had to fix that because we knew that we could not hazard the flight deck in a situation like that.
So we had a strobe light that we attached to the nose landing gear that allows that aircraft to be identified -- directly abeam the carrier, so that we can tell what it is. And it needs to be a visual. The airplanes look different when they're nose-on, but the distance from the back of the ship to where that aircraft is didn't give it enough time for you to react or set the arresting gear, which normally takes about 30 seconds to do.
So with that -- those are the things that we had to go -- that was one of the big ones that we drove at right away.
Weapons. I think we had seen the loads on the in-board pylons, we had seen issues with that relative to our roll rate. The aircraft is performing marvelously in rolling performance, and especially with heavy loads and the lateral asymmetries that we carry with these weapons. We were over-stressing the pylons, and so we went through the redesign effort and will incorporate that in LRIP 2 and 3, and then it will be into full-rate production.
So those are some of the major things that we've gone after. But other things that we'll resolve: advanced targeting ATFLIR is coming in 2002. That will resolve the magnification issues that we've seen and the resolution issues that we've seen. There's reliability and maintainability -- some of the "ilities" that the admiral talked about -- we'll resolve with the targeting FLIR that's out there today by bringing the new targeting FLIR on board. So that's the way that we have seen other things, like the radar as a road map item for us, that helps to resolve some of the issues that we've got today with the APG- 73. So --
Q: The EW suites are --
Captain Godwin: I'm sorry?
Q: The EW suite you want --
Captain Godwin: Right now we've got a three-phased approach to - IDECM [Integrated Defense Electronic Counter Measure] is at the heart of what this aircraft's survivability is, and there's been challenges there for the IDECM system. I think they've gotten themselves beyond that now.
But for the first three deployments, our intent is to have the (AOQ-165 ?) as the on-board jammer for the aircraft -- we call that Block One -- and the ALE-50 as part of the aircraft for Block Two, which starts about the third deployment of the Super Hornet. We'll have the 214, which is the RFCM [Radio Frequency Countermeasure] piece of IDECM, which is the countermeasures system on-board, and will still have the ALE-50 towed decoy. And then the follow-on system will be the full-up IDECM suite.
Q: Is that -- (off mike)?
Captain Godwin: I believe that's about the fourth deployment.
Q: Can you speak to the threat -- a couple of things are occurring to me.
The Air Force has said that they need the F-22 because peer threats are coming on. Is there a peer threat that you all are looking at with the Super Hornet, number one?
Number two, how many adversaries do you expect will have helmet- mounted cueing systems and off-war-site missiles by 2002? What was the likelihood that you could come up against one of those kinds of adversaries?
And then, Admiral --
Captain Godwin: I'll let Admiral Nathman --
Q: You said actually that you don't see that kind of a threat on the near horizon from Korea, Iraq, or the Balkans, which might cause critics to question, then, why do you need it, and why not wait, test a little bit more, get the stuff, incorporate it, test it again, and then make a decision?
Admiral Nathman: Well, like I said, we need it because (inaudible) can't grow the C anymore, and we've got to replace the F-14. I mean, we've got a road map. This airplane basically falls off the face of the Earth. It's a wonderful airplane. It's hard to support. It costs a lot of money. But it runs out of air frame line. You've got to replace that air frame, okay?
Q: But is this driven as much by the threat as the F-22, at least by --
Admiral Nathman: Well, it's driven by a number of things. Obviously, we see in the E/F as the way to grow it. And if we're going to have the airplane for a while -- which I think we will, personally -- I think we ought to be able to grow it to the threat. And that's one of the tenets that I think built in the the airplane the whole time -- was when you see this bar being raised -- this is the way I'd answer the question -- then you need to ensure that you've got a road map to stay above that bar. But you have to build it on a basic airplane that's just damn good to start with, okay? Good maneuverability, good growth, good weapons sweep, good SA [Situational Awareness] for the pilot. And you do that, and you combine it with something that we've done, traditionally, for a long time, and that is we train our pilots well, we invest a lot of money into flight time into them, and we try and give them the very best that we can to deploy with. And when you do that, you've got a heck of a bar, okay, for the threat that's out there.
And I would remind you of what we saw in Vietnam in the early '70s -- actually, the late '60s. You know, the late '60s -- our bars were basically even. Why? Because we had an F-4 with no gun in it for the Navy. We were not training as well as we should for air-to- air. And we were fighting this thing called the MiG-21, which was introduced at numbers in North Vietnam about that time, which had a heat-seeking missile called the Atoll and a gun. And that was a heck of a fight. So the bars were pretty equivalent.
The way we overcame it was we started training hard, called Top Gun and things like that. And we -- by the end of the war, we, the Navy F-4s, had exhibited a kill ratio of 13-1/2 to 1.
We still see it the same way. We still have to train our guys. We still have to go to our con ops. We still have to provide the basic equipment. But part of the total system is that in fact that you provide that pilot the awareness, the training, and then the equipment to stay on top of that bar. That's the way I'd answer the question.
Q: But right now you don't see a peer threat on the horizon?
Admiral Nathman: Well, you know, I don't want -- I don't -- you know, not to get into the debate with the F-22, because that's not the purpose of this availability --
Q: (Off mike.)
Admiral Nathman: -- but I mean, the point is, right now there is a threat.
There is an aerial threat in Iraq, there is an aerial threat potentially in the Balkans, although that's -- we're at peace now, right?
Q: Right, but nothing -- nothing your current inventory can't handle, correct?
Admiral Nathman: Exactly. If we see it, we can handle the threat. The current threat. (Inaudible) -- grow into that, yes.
Admiral Jurkowsky: One more question. One more question, John.
Q: Admiral, we're dealing with two different aircraft, the E and the F. You discussed that 40 percent increase in range.
Admiral Nathman: Yes.
Q: Could you be specific about which aircraft you're referring to and then sort of let us know what the range is on -- not the range, but give us a ballpark or some kind of assessment for each one?
Admiral Nathman: I'm going to let Captain Godwin talk about the very specifics, the minutiae of the range.
Admiral Nathman: But, see, what's important is a perspective here. Our air wings are going to typically have about 30 percent of our strike fighters will be two-seat and the other 70 percent will single- seat. We think that's the right proportion, okay? -- of the airplanes on our flight deck. What do we see in the dual-seat airplane? I think Captain Rutherford will talk to this is we see an airplane for really high test missions, okay? Really (inaudible), okay? This might be like your Pathfinder. This might be an airplane -- it's really up for air wing commanders to shape, but they can use this aircraft as the Pathfinder, as the guy that's out there doing some of the targeting, the guy that's maintaining the SA, the guy who's doing the really hard navigation side of it. Frankly, the air wing commander, when he flies in it, will probably have someone -- will probably choose to fly in the F.
But at the same time, we see on most of our day-to-day missions the fact that we need a large number of the single-seat airplanes, and they're effectiveness. So it's really kind of a blended answer. It's not that, Here's the attributes of the F and here's the attributes of the E. We think we're answering that question with proportionality on our flight deck.
So we see pretty much equivalence in those attributes. There are small differences in range, which I think are a push. I don't think they're tactically significant.
And now I'll let Admiral -- select -- Godwin -- talk about those differences if he wants to.
Captain Godwin: One of the things that we have to certify that I said earlier, SecDef has got to certify, is that we've met the KPPs and the airplanes met the KPPs. Three hundred and ninety nautical miles miles was what the interdiction range was supposed to be, and I think by the standards we were at 397.
So the airplane met -- and that's the "F" by the way. And it holds about 900 pounds less gas, less fuel, than the F/A-18Es do, because of the added crew station.
So we have met that -- we met the KPPs, and it operates well around the ship.
Q: So the 40 percent more is for the "F" or for the "E"?
Captain Godwin: Well, I think we did like comparisons between the airplanes, so you measured an "E" against a "C" in like configurations to make those measurements.
Q: And that applies to both models?
Captain Godwin: No.
Captain Godwin: Because what I just said was you compared an F/A- 18C and an F/A-18E for those range numbers to say that you had a 40 percent increase.
Q: And if you compare a "D" to an "F," it'd be the same thing?
Captain Godwin: Easily do that. That's exactly right.
Q: Can I ask one quick question?
Mr. : (Inaudible.)
Q: All right. (Laughter.)
You mentioned earlier about the weapons that this -- the arms they carry. Can you say whether it's the airplane itself or the weapons that are coming down the line that makes the Super Hornet or will make it what it's going to be?
Admiral Nathman: It's absolutely both. We have a weapons road map that makes sense. I want to give you an illustrated example.
I see a junior officer in the future on his aircraft carrier, electronically getting on a monitor for doing his planning into a threat environment, pre-flying that particular mission on a computer. And he'll program four different designated mean points of impact, or targets, discreet targets. He will program that into his mission computer for the aircraft.
He will launch -- fly the correct profile that will minimize the threat. He will fly to a centroid of those targets and go "pickle, pickle, pickle, pickle." And you'll have -- that doesn't sound very romantic, does it? Okay. He'll pickle this -- (laughter, cross talk) -- I know. Right.
But it's -- you'll depress the bomber release button -- okay? We say pickle; I have said it my whole life. But we'll press four times, and you'll -- and when that guy comes back, he will have destroyed four targets. And on top of that, he'll have great situational awareness and the ability with these, Chris, to do near-simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting, which is the other reason why we want it, besides taking care of the reliability issues on that APG- 73.
So that's --
Captain Godwin: The last question here.
Q: I came in late. So if this has been asked, forgive me.
Admiral Nathman: Well, you didn't get a ticket when you came in late.
Q: That's okay --
Captain Rutherford: I have a comment, just to the end of the --
Admiral Nathman: Sure.
Captain Rutherford: Real quick. I know we are running late.
But I think it's very important to accentuate exactly what -- the big-ticket items that this aircraft brings. And having flown an F/A- 18C with a total of five air-to-ground weapon stations and two wing- tip stations, and comparing that to an F/A-18E or -F with a total of 11 stations and an enormous increase in its ability to bring these weapons back, in addition to the ability to take them out in the first place, the fire power, the increase in fire power that you get, I think, is something that really needs to be underscored.
Q: The cost on the per-plane? We've had problems in the past getting good, definitive numbers. What is the current average procurement acquisition unit cost in then-year dollars? I've got about 75 million. Is that right?
Captain Godwin: I don't have those with me, Tony. I think that one of the big things we came to talk about today was OPEVAL, first off. And one of the issues that folks have continued to drive at is the cost comparison between a C and an E. And it's still holding at 14 percent, 114 percent. So we're still maintaining the numbers that we maintained before.
Q: So as people write the story, the editors and readers will want to know how much does it cost. I thought, like, $85 million for a program acquisition unit cost then-year. Do you have any of them?
Captain Godwin: I --
Admiral Nathman: We can certainly get it.
Captain Godwin: I'll get it. I'll get it to you.
Q: Because that's one thing you guys have not had clarity on in the past.
Admiral Nathman: We'll get it.
Admiral Jurkowsky: Okay. Thank you very much.
This transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service, Inc., Washington, DC. Federal News Service is a private company. For other defense related transcripts not available through this site, contact Federal News Service at (202) 347-1400.