being incorporated into the air wing.
That’s a huge capability improvement for a lot of different reasons,
some of which I can’t go into. Slowly
but surely, we will add JSF capability
to every air wing in the fleet.
VFA-101 [Strike Fighter Squadron 101, the F-35C fleet readiness
squadron] was stood up to start
building that cadre of experts and
instructors who are going to be able
to train [pilots] in that aircraft when
it starts to show up in numbers [suf-ficient] that we can start transitioning the first fleet squadron. We
expect to start that training process
independently with VFA-101 in the
2016 timeframe. So, three to four
years from now, you’ll see routine
training occurring in JSF transition
[Regarding] all the other transitions that are occurring, we’re in the middle of them.
The P- 8 [Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft] transition
started just a month ago down in VP- 16 [Patrol
Squadron- 16], the first squadron. We’re halfway
through, give or take, all of the helicopter transitions in
Romeo [MH-60R] and Sierra [MH-60S]. We’ve got E-2D
[Advanced Hawkeye radar early warning aircraft] in test
and it’s going to be a phenomenal capability that we’re
really looking forward to. You are aware of the Growler
[EA-18G electronic attack aircraft] and its successful
fleet introduction and employment operationally overseas. It was a key player in the operations against Libya.
Effectively, we’ll be done with the fleet transition of
everything but JSF by the end of this decade, which is
pretty impressive when you think about the number of
airplanes, the number of people it affects, the training
that goes into it.
The Navy is converting more legacy Hornet
strike fighter squadrons than originally planned
to the Super Hornet. Do you expect that trend
MORAN: Yes. We’re programmed to transition about 31
of our 35 legacy squadron airplanes to [F/A-18E/Fs] by
2016. That number went up as JSF was delayed in its
introduction. We were supposed [to reach] IOC [initial
operational capability with] that airplane sooner than
the 2016-2018 timeframe. We had to do additional procurement of [the] E/F to make sure we had capability in
the air wings to do the operations we needed to do. So
with the F/A-18E/F, we’re still buying them, and they’ll
be in production through 2013 in our current budget.
Is the Navy still planning on extending the
service life of 150 legacy Hornets for the
Navy and Marine Corps?
MORAN: 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.
Is the EA-18G Growler making an impact in
carrier air wing operations now?
MORAN: There’s no doubt about it. The Growler, with its
commonality with the [Super Hornet], makes for more
efficient capability on the carrier to support that airplane,
with reduced maintenance man hours per flight hours.
So it’s a readiness enhancer. You’ve got a better readiness
statistic if you look at the availability of that airplane
compared to the [EA-6B] Prowler. The Prowler has been
around a long time. It’s done a great job.
The Growler is really going to be a game-changer
especially when you combine that capability with its
AESA [active electronically scanned array] radar and its
cockpit configuration. And, if you combine that with
Next Generation Jammer which is coming out near the
end of this decade, that, I believe will fundamentally be
an operational game-changer for the air wing and for
our capabilities in the air dominance mission.