What are the main issues in sustaining your
Hornet/Super Hornet strike fighter force?
SHOEMAKER: Naval aviation has been in high demand,
engaged in continuous combat operations for almost 14
years. We have put more hours on our Hornets than we
expected to at the time of purchase. When we bought
the Hornet, we anticipated a 6,000-hour use of the airframe and have had to develop a Service Life Extension
Program (SLEP) to take the airframes out to 8,000,
9,000 or, in some cases, 10,000 hours. The SLEP process
went unfunded and was delayed eight years, which further pressurized the system.
Fiscal constraints and impacts of sequestration, such
as furloughs, slowed down production at our depot-level
maintenance facilities (Fleet Readiness Centers), causing
backlogs in out-of-reporting aircraft that we are still feeling the effects of today. Additionally, procurement did
not keep pace with demand.
Historically, the Navy procured aircraft at a rate in
which old airframes were replaced as they were reaching
the end of their service life. Fiscal constraints have impacted our procurement rates. To meet demand, we require a
buy rate of approximately 35 strike fighters per year, and
we haven’t been able to support that in recent years.
What will the Navy’s F-35C bring to the fight in
SHOEMAKER: The F-35C Lightning II will be an
absolutely critical addition to the carrier strike group’s
(CSG’s) integrated warfighting package with stealth
advantages that allow it to penetrate threat envelopes
to employ weapons, the ability to detect and fuse information from many sources, and link that fused picture
to other CSG aircraft, ships and decision-makers.
This fifth-generation stealth fighter provides the all-sensor fusion and long-range combat identification
The Navy’s ‘Air Boss’ puts the naval aviation vision into reality
As the Navy’s “Air Boss” since January, VADM Mike Shoemaker
serves as overall commander, Naval Air Forces, and also commander,
Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. He is responsible for the manning,
training, equipping, administration and maintenance of the Navy’s aviation units, including its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
Shoemaker brings operational experience to bear on addressing the
challenges of naval aviation. He served in four squadrons as an A-7E
and F/A-18C pilot, commanding Strike Fighter Squadron 105 and the
fleet replacement squadron, VFA-106. Subsequently, he commanded
Carrier Air Wing 17 and Carrier Strike Groups Nine and Three.
Shoemaker also has extensive experience in personnel management,
and served as aide to the vice chief of naval operations and as aide
and later executive assistant to the commander, U.S. Pacific
Command. As a flag officer, he served as assistant commander, Navy
Personnel Command for Career Management, and later as commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Shoemaker responded in writing to questions from Managing Editor Richard R. Burgess.