5 Reasons Why the F-35C is Poised to Strengthen U.S. Navy Air Power

Lockheed Martin // April 09, 2018

1. The Legacy Fleet is Aging 

The U.S. Navy’s existing fleet of F/A-18 Hornets and F/A-18 Super Hornets is aging fast, with many in need of replacement or costly and time consuming Service Life Extension Plans (SLEP) to extend the aircraft beyond their original 6,000 hour flight limit.

The F-35C will deliver an 8,000 flight hour airframe and will replace, supplement and enhance the U.S. Navy’s existing fleet for decades to come.

2. Evolving Threats Demand New Capabilities

Rising threats from advanced surface-to-air missiles, air-to-air missiles, and tactical aircraft are advancing and fielding at a rapid pace, requiring new capabilities not available in 4th generation fighters.

With true stealth designed in from day one, coupled with sensor fusion, unprecedented battlespace awareness, and electronic attack, the F-35C provides the warfighter the ultimate ability to more effectively execute assigned missions in the face of advancing threat capabilities around the globe.

And with more than 18,000 pounds of weapons capacity, and nearly 20,000 pounds of internal fuel, the F-35C delivers transformational lethality, survivability, combat radius, and mission flexibility.

3. F-35’s Sensor Capability and Connectivity Will Enhance All Platforms

The transformational F-35 is more than just a strike-fighter. It is a powerful force multiplier with an advanced sensor and communications suite that can significantly enhance the capabilities of other air, surface and ground-based platforms.

The F-35 can be used as a broad area sensor to provide early warning, over-the-horizon information on potential targets or incoming threats.

4. The F-35 Enhances 4th Generation Fighters 

U.S. Services have successfully employed the F-35 in multiple demanding deployments and exercises, and the F-35 is supporting operations around the globe today.

The F-35 is proving to be a transformational weapon system that not only provides significantly better battlespace accessibility compared to legacy aircraft but also makes legacy aircraft more survivable and effective by sharing its fused sensor information for unmatched threat and battlespace awareness among all air and surface assets currently operating in conjunction with Expeditionary Strike Groups, and soon with Carrier Strike Groups.

By 2025, the Navy's Aircraft Carrier air wings are scheduled to include F-35Cs, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, E-2D Hawkeye battle management and control aircraft, MH-60R/S helicopters, and CV-22 carrier on board delivery logistics aircraft.

5. As the Program Matures, Costs Are Coming Down 

The F-35 program is maturing rapidly and costs are coming down. Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 280 aircraft, trained more than 580 pilots and 5,600 maintainers and the F-35 fleet has surpassed more than 130,000+ cumulative flight hours.

F-35 unit costs have declined by more than 60% since the first production lot and we continue to reduce costs across production and sustainment. The F-35C specifically is on track to reach a unit cost of about $97 million by 2020, a cost that is considered comparable to legacy fighters.

And as aircraft mature, reliability improves, and the F-35 enterprise gears up to support a growing operational fleet, F-35C is expected to improve mission readiness and drastically reduce sustainment cost.

With significantly more capability for an equivalent cost as legacy aircraft, the F-35C is poised to affordably strengthen U.S. Navy air power for decades to come.