✅ Fact-checked    

The new U.S. deck fighter is outdated even before its development

The Next Generation Air Dominance program, from the point of view of confrontation with Russia, makes no practical sense, except to master the U.S. taxpayers' money.

The authoritative U.S. military magazine USNI News August 18, 2020, published an article entitled “The Navy is quietly embarking on the development of a next-generation fighter deck; a manned long-range aircraft is planned.

This combat vehicle will be created under the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program. According to information from James Gerts, U.S. Navy Procurement Manager, the fleet has already formed a program office for this task.

The new fighter will replace the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet deck fighters/attack aircraft in service and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, which are beginning to expire in the early 2030s.

In its January 2020 report, the U.S. Congressional Research Service estimated the approximate cost of replacing the F/A-18E/F fleet from 2032 to 2050 at $67 billion and the EA-18G Growler fleet at $22 billion. Total: $99 billion.

However, this estimate does not include the potentially significant cost of installing new REB modules or upgrading existing REB modules for the EA-18G Growler. The U.S. Navy has estimated that about $4 billion will be needed to replace only 128 sets of this equipment. And the EA-18G Growler fleet currently consists of 160 combat vehicles.

The U.S. Navy has already secured $4.5 billion for the NGAD program by reducing the purchase of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters/attack aircraft.

The main objective of the Next Generation Air Dominance program is to increase the operational range of the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier decks. It is planned to create a completely new sixth-generation deck fighter with a combat radius of more than 1000 nautical miles (more than 1852 kilometers).

U.S. experts believe that the U.S. Navy is going to create a combat vehicle, which will include many capabilities of the F-35 C Lightning II fighter, use new technology, and have an extended range.

The Next Generation Air Dominance program was formed as part of a renewed U.S. defense strategy, focused on fighting Russia and China in the Indo-Pacific theater of war. It turned out that the flight range of Russian and Chinese anti-ship missiles does not allow the U.S. aircraft carrier groups to approach the distance that allows the use of deck aviation.

Let's see what combat range without suspended fuel tanks and aerial refueling the U.S. Navy fighter jets have. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter/attack aircraft has a range of 722 kilometers, the F-35 C Lightning II (deck version) has a range of 1140 kilometers, the F-35B Lightning II (short take-off, vertical landing, with the possibility of vertical take-off) has a range of 865 kilometers.

And now let us consider the characteristics of a number of Russian weapon systems that allow the U.S. to keep aircraft carrier strike groups at a decent distance from Russia borders.

The first place should be given to the air-based missile system “Dagger” with an X-47 M2 missile. The MiG-31K fighter-interceptor can carry one such missile. The flight speed of this missile reaches Mach 10. The combat unit can be both in conventional and nuclear equipment. The flight range of the X-47 M2 missile is 2 thousand kilometers. In Russia, the missile systems “Dagger” are on trial duty since December 2017.

Russian aerospace forces are waiting for a modification of the long-range bomber Tu-22 M3 — Tu-22 M3M to enter service soon. This version of the combat vehicle returned the refueling rod in the air, which actually brings it closer to the characteristics of a strategic missile-bomber. Tu-22 M3M will be able to carry four hypersonic missiles of the X-47 M2 “Dagger” complex.

It should be noted that at the turn of 2020-2021, the Russian Navy will adopt a sea-based ZM22 Zircon hypersonic missile. It will be equipped with multi-purpose nuclear submarines and surface ships.

The missile has a range of more than 1000 kilometers and a flight speed of more than 9 Makhov. Even one hypersonic Zircon missile can disable any large surface ship.

Thus, at the moment, the flight range of the Russian Kh-47 M2 Dagger missile is 2 thousand kilometers, which is more than the combat range included in the American program Next Generation Air Dominance to create a new deck fighter (1000 nautical miles — 1852 kilometers).

The new fighter will begin to enter service with the US Navy only from 2032, that is, after 12 years. However, Russian weapon designers will not stand still for 12 years, and measures will be taken to both increase the flight range of anti-ship missiles and increase their speed.

It is already obvious today that the NGAD program, from the point of view of confrontation with Russia, has no practical meaning, except for the intention to master the money of American taxpayers. If we take the Russian multipurpose oceanic system Poseidon, then not even the issue of the combat use of aircraft carrier strike groups of the US Navy is put on the agenda, but the question of the meaning of their existence.

No later than 2027, Russia plans to deploy four nuclear-powered submarines, each of which will carry up to eight Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicles. Two nuclear submarines will be in the Northern Fleet and two in the Pacific Fleet.

The Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicle is an intercontinental nuclear submarine autonomous torpedo with a nuclear power plant. Its range reaches 10 thousand kilometers, the immersion depth is one kilometer, and the speed at such a depth is 200 kilometers per hour. One such torpedo is capable of destroying a US Navy carrier strike group.

The current level of development of aviation technology will not allow, either now or in the near future, to create a carrier-based fighter with a combat range of more than 10 thousand kilometers. This fact once again speaks of the utopianism of the American idea of increasing the combat range of carrier-based aircraft and the associated Next Generation Air Dominance program to create a new carrier-based fighter, and also allows us to draw a disappointing conclusion about the upcoming cut of US budget funds in the amount of more than $100 billion.

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