I thought I would post the link to the article here, https://csbaonline.org/research/publica ... ublication and see what people’s thoughts are. Some of the interesting suggestions is to change up the carrier air wing by 2040, as posted by Janes here,
In its report released 7 February, 'Regaining the High Ground at Sea', the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) think tank proposes a carrier air wing mix fielded by 2040 that is built around 18 unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), 10 F/A-XX strike fighters, 10 Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs), and six UCAV-based airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft.
Although the aggregate payload capacity of the proposed carrier air wing is about the same as the USN's plan, CSBA believes its carrier air wing would improve range, endurance, survivability, and payload capacity compared with today's carrier air wings. The USN's planned carrier air wing would centre around 20 F-35Cs and 24 Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-XX strike fighters.
https://www.janes.com/article/86258/new ... ice-as-far
The intent between now and 2040 is to have twenty-four F/A-18E/F, twenty F-35C and five EA-18G (once the classic Hornets are replaced and production of the F-35C increases). The current intent of the USN is to finish their F-35 acquisition in approximately 2031 to model the air wing above. Obviously the presence of the MQ-25, and potentially derivatives of it with a strike focus, will emerge post 2025 on carrier decks and enhance the capability of the airwing in different ways.
What are people’s thoughts on how the carrier air wing will change? The USN, as well as the CSBA, see the replacement of the F/A-18E/F occurring by 2040 with the F/A-XX. CSBA are also keen to see a UCAV replace portions of both the F/A-XX and F-35C fleets as well as the EA-18G. The emphasis also seems to be on a reduction in manoeuvrability of the UCAVs, even for the fleet air defence mission, while increasing mission loads and fuel to allow for greater persistence. The quote from the CSBA report suggesting the emphasis for F/A-XX shouldn’t be on speed but on sensors and weapons carriage.
Instead of emphasizing speed, the FA-XX program should prioritize sensor capability and weapons capacity. Sensors, especially passive sensors, could enable CVW fighters to detect enemy fighters or SAMs before being detected themselves, allowing the U.S. fighter to evade or attack first. The emerging generation of long-range IRST sensors in the long- and medium-wave IR frequency ranges, passive RF receivers, and EO cameras could provide these capabilities, but they will require more and larger apertures on the FA-XX airframe or to be carried in pods, which may impact speed. FA-XX weapons capacity will also be more important than speed. Given the long ranges needed to conduct OCA operations, the CVW will not be able to quickly send fighters to replace those that have expended their weapons.
Except for range, the sensor capability and weapons capacity described above for the FA-XX or future long-range fighter could be provided by a version of a current production fighter or strike fighter, such as the Block III F/A-18 E/F or F-35C. A modified aircraft could avoid the potentially unsustainable cost of a new fighter development program, with some of the saved funding being reallocated to the UCAV development effort.
Some of the recommendations that start from page 121
Using a derivative of either the SH or F-35C for F/A-XX
To reach the proposed CVW by 2040, this study recommends the following actions, starting with the President’s Budget for FY 2020:
Sustain procurement of F/A-18 E/Fs as planned through 2023. Although the future CVW requires half the strike fighters of the Navy’s planned CVW, these aircraft will fill near- to mid-term capacity gaps. F/A-18 E/Fs still in service by 2040 can be used in place of UCAVs or F-35Cs if those aircraft are not yet fully fielded. Another reason to sustain procurement of F/A-18 E/Fs is to address the increasing cost of main¬taining older aircraft. The planned service life of a new or modernized Block III F/A-18 E/F is 9,000 flight hours, and CVW strike fighters fly an average of 400 hours a year, resulting in a 20-year replacement cycle. Beyond 20 years, the cost to main¬tain older aircraft for another 5–10 years may exceed the cost of replacing them with new aircraft that have 20 years of more reliable service life.
Sustain F-35C procurement as planned through the first half of production, ending in 2024, to support the proposed 2040 CVW’s squadron of ten F-35Cs.
Develop the FA-XX fighter during the 2020–2024 timeframe as a derivative of an existing aircraft, with production starting in 2025. Block III F/A-18 E/Fs and F-35Cs will be in production during the FY 2020–2024 FYDP, and either they or another in-production fighter or strike fighter could be modified into an FA-XX. Although this approach will require some additional funding for non-recurring engineering between about 2020 and 2024, it will save billions of dollars in the Navy’s planned funding to develop a new fighter aircraft from scratch.
Replacing the EA-18G mid 2030s with a UCAV
Retire E/A-18Gs as they reach their end of service life during the 2030s, replacing their capability with EMW UAV and missile expendables and NGJ-equipped UCAVs.
and develop a UCAV to to augument and then replace most of the strike fighters,
Develop a low observable UCAV attack aircraft as described in Chapter 5 during the 2020–2024 timeframe, with production starting in 2025. Although the UCAV could be based on an existing design such as the X-47B, 1–2 years of development may be needed to create a missionized version. If this development effort starts in 2020, low-rate production should be able to start by 2025. Although fiscal and industrial base constraints may prevent reaching 200 UCAVs by 2040, the CVW of the mid-2030s will have a significant number of UCAVs. The rest of the attack aircraft can consist of F/A-18 E/F strike fighters still in service.
Continue development of the MQ-25 and increase the overall procurement of refueling aircraft to support twelve per CVW. The Navy should also develop a refueling variant of the UCAV attack aircraft described above for production in the mid to late-2030s once sufficient attack UCAVs are fielded.
While there is some serious speculation and perhaps some pie in the sky suggestions on development between now and 2040 some interesting things to discuss.