President-elect Donald Trump is tweeting again, and once more he’s tweeting about the F-35 fighter jet. Last week, he said the F-35 program costs have gone “out of control,” and he was right, sort of. Except now his proposed solution appears to be a physically impossible fantasy plane. God help us.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy
Specifically, he’s asking for an F/A-18 Super Hornet with “comparable” capabilities to the F-35:
Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
I am so genuinely curious as to what Boeing’s reaction was what they received this request, because it’s just blatantly impossible.
One of the reasons the F-35 is so expensive is because the variant built for the United States Marine Corps, the F-35B, is capable of hovering, along with the ability to take off and land vertically like a helicopter. To make an F/A-18 do that, you’d have to somehow find the space for a whole bunch of venting and plumbing and additional computer systems. Plus you’d probably have to find the space for a cool-air lift fan, like the F-35B has, to avoid melting every single runway and ship deck the thing has the misfortune to come across. So you’d have to design an entirely new plane.
But let’s ignore the vertical jumping version for a second.
The very shape of the F-35, not to mention the materials it’s made out of, make it nearly invisible to radar. The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, with a shape inspired by its F/A-18 C/D Hornet predecessor, is not nearly invisible to radar. It has some radar-reducing measures, sure, but it’s not the same thing. To make it do so, you would have to change the shape of the plane entirely. Which would make it not an F/A-18. It would make it something else.
It would make it an entirely new plane.
An entirely new plane from the ground up.
An entirely new and costly weapons system.
Not an F/A-18.
The F-35 program is a complete nightmare, and Donald Trump somehow managed to imagine something even worse.
What is happening. What. I just. I don’t.
UPDATE: As we’ve noted before, Boeing apparently did make some sort of prototype stealth-ier F/A-18 Super Hornet at one point, but it appears not to have been good enough to keep it out of the scrap heap. When we first saw it, we guessed that it wouldn’t be for much of anything than possibly a surveillance plane, as one of the main stealth features of the F-35 is its internal weapons bay, which hides missiles and bombs from enemy radar. That would still be an issue for the stealth-ish Super Hornet variant, and wouldn’t really make it “comparable” to the F-35, as the F-35 needs to be able to dart in past enemy radar and attack ground targets. And it still wouldn’t take off or land vertically.
Also, it doesn’t appear to have any wings. They could probably find some, somewhere.