The US Navy recently solicited an analysis of alternatives from the defense industry for an aircraft designated as FA-XX — the next carrier-borne aircraft.
The announcement states that industry should consider FA-XX either as an extension of the joint strike fighter design, the FA-18 Hornet series or as a new design. The questions are, what form should FA-XX take and why does the Navy need it?
Currently in production in the form of the EA-18G Growler, the FA-18 Hornet represents a stable design but handicapped by inherent restrictions associated with its original function as a replacement for the short-range, light-attack A-7 Crusader II and A-4 Skyhawk that retired from carrier decks early in the 1990s.
The failure of the A-12 program left the Navy without a replacement for the long-range, heavy-strike A-6 Intruder, which retired in the mid-1990s.
In its heyday in the 1970s, a US carrier’s flight deck was covered with no fewer than eight different aircraft to perform a broad spectrum of missions from fighter-intercept, to deep strike to electronic reconnaissance at ranges of 500 to 1,000 nautical miles unrefueled.