By lex, on November 20th, 2010
So, when Navy decided that the FA-18C was all fine and good so far as it went – which was not nearly far enough, to certain people’s way of thinking – but that, wouldn’t it be swell if the lithe and agile little beast had, oh, I dunno: Another few thousand pounds of internal gas, room for avionics growth, six wing stations rather than four and the internal plumbing for to serve as an aerial refueling station, the concept of the FA-18E/F was born, and the new Hornet was to be y-clept “Super.”
Only the dons of Marine Corps aviation, God bless their black and hardened little hearts, didn’t see what was so super about it at all. It being an evolutionary rather than revolutionary design concept, and wouldn’t the Joint Strike Fighter be a better fit, what with its ability to hover in and out of remote, forward operating locations right alongside the infantry whose existence gave Marine aviation its very meaning?
Oh, if the F-35B ran into problems, or the JSF more broadly, the Corps would grudgingly consider acquisition of the Super Hornet. But how likely could that be, what with all the whole world signed on to the deal, and everything on the line for Lockheed Martin’s “last manned fighter”?
Which broke our naval hearts, didn’t it? For if the Corps had signed on to the Super Hornet while awaiting JSF maturity, we could have sharply reduced the unit cost of our Navy FA-18Es & Fs through an expanded end order quantity, amortizing all of the RDT&E dollars committed to the program over a broader purchase base. Not to mention the ability to merrily deploy Marine strike fighter squadrons right alongside their Navy counter-parts aboard conventional aircraft carriers, which would – as it has done with the FA-18C – allow all of naval aviation to spread the stress of shipboard arrested landings and their concomitant airframe fatigue issues.
Stuff and nonsense, said our mean green brothers in arms: The JSF is the Way of the Future.
Now the Corps is a lean and fraternal organization, where everybody knows your name after a time. And unlike Navy, with its several warring clans and competing constituencies, what cometh down from Eighth and Eye is known as the Gospel according to the Commandant, and whosoever wishes to have a long and healthy career in the Corps will mark the Gospel well, and hew closely to its tenets. For if he does not, well: The full weight and power of the ‘Dant hisself will come down upon his head, and smite him, and bitter will be his lamentations for they will avail him not. For the ‘Dant’s name is Legion, and the evildoer’s lot shall be accursed, and his name forgot upon the list of advancement, and of miserable places to pass his apportioned time until his inevitable separation from the service there are no few.
Which keeps everything nice and tidy, like, with one man at the rudder and everyone else pulling on his appointed oar.
But lo! It came to pass, according to a trusted correspondent, that a four ship of Super Hornets flown by Marine aviators assigned to a Navy replacement squadron found themselves on a cross country trip, the lucky bastids. For you see, the legacy Hornet and Super Hornet training squadrons have been, or are being, collapsed upon each other, with all of the several instructors from both the naval services qualified in the entire series of Hornets from A through F, and flying whatever makes the most sense for them to fly on a given training mission. If you’ve got to carefully husband the lifecyle of an older machine to stretch her out until the F-35 arrives, well maybe a spanking new FA-18E or F might be the better choice, and the more broadly qualified your instructional base, the greater your scheduling flexibility.
These few, these happy few, this band of cross country road warriors had the misfortune to meet a retired Marine general officer who asked them what they thought of this whole Super Hornet thing, and did the idea have any merit, at all? But here’s the risk: Sometimes, under severe pressure, a junior officer may unintentionally blurt out the truth. Our Marine junior brothers told the retired fart that there was much to be admired in the Super Hornet series, not least that it was here, now, and not theoretical. That it was, in short, a wonderful machine, perfectly suited to the role of supporting the combat infantryman. And just look at all the gas!
Lean though the Corps is generally, it gets particularly thin at the general officer rank, and word of the junior Marines’ ardor for the Super Hornet worked its way back around to those Actually In Charge. Their message, of course, was not according to the Gospel, nor nothing like it. And, my correspondent continues, a certain three-star general officer in charge of Marine Corps aviation who shall not be named – but whose initials rhyme with “Trautman” – has apparently decided to clap a stopper over these heresies by telling the Navy training squadron that his Marines are not to fly the Super Hornet any longer.
Which will, of course, serve to minimize the amount of glowing green praise going forward, even if it does create a scheduling nightmare for the Navy training squadron, and a degree of dyspepsia among the Marine aviators stationed there.
But at least it’s tidy. Now pull your oar.
* 10-14-2018 Link Gone; no replacements found – Ed.
** 10-14-2018 Original link gone; replacement found – Ed.