“We’re going to continue to extend the life of the legacy airplanes as long
as we need to and that changes year to year depending on the news we
get out of [the] JSF [program]. It depends on the ability of the Marine
Corps to move to its F-35B because the Marine Corps flies all legacy
Hornets and we have to make sure we have enough capacity in the fleet.
Part of the strategy is to be able to extend the life of the legacy Hornets
to meet that capacity challenge. So, it’s a combination of levers that we
pull, that being one of them.”
What is the status on the next-generation
strike fighter, F/A-XX?
MORAN: I would describe our Request for Information
[RFI] as a way to start having a conversation with
industry about what they think the future of naval aviation ought to look like. [Department of Defense]-wide, we’re moving into unmanned [aviation], which
is a really exciting area for all of us, but we don’t really
know what the art of the possible is.
When I think about the future as far as 2030 or
2040, what does that propulsion system need to be in
terms of endurance, persistence, speed, range, altitude?
All of those things are unknown to us at this point. The
response from industry has been very positive; a lot of
great conversation about technology they see coming.
We also have to think about the CONOPs [concepts of
operations] and what it means to the air wing.
The life of the largest component of the air wing, the
[F/A-18E/F], those airplanes start to fall off in the late
’20s. And, so, if you back up the normal acquisition
timeline for new capability, we’re in the middle of the
early stages of trying to understand what that should
be. We’re excited about continuing that conversation
with industry and seeing what the art of the possible is,
make sure our S&T [science and technology] efforts
and our acquisition timelines are aligned.
What will be the impact of the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Strike and Surveillance System (UCLASS) on the carrier air wing?
MORAN: We’re very interested in what UCLASS can
do. We see it as a complementary capability to the air
wing in terms of ISR [intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance] ability. To be able to provide COP [a
common operational picture] for the CSG [carrier
strike group] commander will be very important. To
my knowledge, we still haven’t completely defined
what the requirements would be for UCLASS, but we
certainly see the potential in what unmanned or
optionally manned choices might be in the future.
With the MH-60R/S helicopters well into production, are you starting to look at a next-generation
MORAN: It’s never too early to think about the future.
There is an OSD- [Office of the Secretary of Defense-] and
Joint Staff-led effort to look at future vertical-lift capabilities. We’re involved in that effort because it looks at new
technologies from propulsion to lift, to range, endurance,
payload capacity. The Army is a little earlier to need than
we are, but we think there is an advantage to being tied at
the hip with the Army and understanding what industry
can develop, much the way we are with looking at the
COD [carrier-onboard delivery] and at fighter capabilities
in the future.
What is the E-2D going to give the air wing as
opposed to the E-2C?
MORAN: This is not [an N98] program, but we are
very closely aligned with N2/N6 [deputy CNO for
information dominance] on understanding what that
capability is going to be. Everything we see coming out
of the program office is a game-changer in terms of
radar range — up to two times what we see in the current [E-2C] legacy platform — and its ability to manage multiple tracks and information networked around
the air wing is substantially greater than what we see
today with E-2C.
What is the status of a replacement for the
C- 2 COD aircraft?
MORAN: We’ve just started looking at the COD
replacement. Those airframes start to fall off in the mid
to late ’20s, so we have done an analysis of alternatives