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At a budgetary crossroads, the US Navy’s aviation wing must choose between old and new

WASHINGTON — In the coming years, the U.S. Navy will be faced with a decision that will radically shape the carrier air wing: Is the service willing to sacrifice dozens of new Super Hornet jets for the promise of a sixth-generation fighter in the 2030s?

The Navy is opting to buy a final 24 F/A-18E/Fs in fiscal 2021, slashing a planned purchase of at least 36 Super Hornets that would have spanned FY22 through FY24. The move will save $4.5 billion, which the service plans to redirect to its sixth-generation fighter program, known as Next Generation Air Dominance, or F/A-XX.

However, the decision may not be as clear cut — or final — as budget documents make it seem.

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