By meeting the Navy's projected requirements with no cost overruns, the Super Hornet (F/A-18E/F, top) is the most cost-effective bridge from the F/A-18C/D to the Joint Strike Fighter.
Eight years have passed since the U.S. Navy selected the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as its next tactical naval strike fighter. With the March 2000 decision to proceed with full-rate production, now is a good time to review the last decade of the F/A-18 and carrier aviation.
The requirements for naval aviation were framed in the context of naval force structure, affordability, and battle group capabilities. In each of the past Quadrennial Defense Reviews, the Navy has maintained a requirement for 15 battle groups. With fewer battle groups, the Navy cannot cover all of the national security requirements. Budget constraints, however, have forced the Navy to make do with 12 carriers and 10 air wings. While everyone is familiar with "budget constraints," few people understand how much the Navy budget has been reduced.