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Navy Quietly Starts Development of Next-Generation Carrier Fighter; Plans Call for Manned, Long-Range Aircraft

After nearly a decade of fits and starts, the Navy has quietly initiated work to develop its first new carrier-based fighter in almost 20 years, standing up a new program office and holding early discussions with industry, USNI News has learned.

The multi-billion-dollar effort to replace the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and electronic attack EA-18G Growlers beginning in the 2030s is taking early steps to quickly develop a new manned fighter to extend the reach of the carrier air wing and bring new relevance to the Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

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Aircraft carrier: Ship of fear

The sight of an aircraft carrier up close, even at dockside, linked to land by umbilicals, is overwhelming ? more than 1,000 feet long, displacing 100,000 tons, 30 stories tall from waterline to the ship?s island.

The sense of power is undeniable. Each of the 90 planes operating from its deck carries a heavier bomb load than the largest bomber of World War II (not counting nuclear bombs).

It takes no imagination to appreciate the sense of impotence a carrier can instill in a hostile power. Nobody wants a piece of this monster.

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With mounting questions about cost and survivability, a shifting political landscape for US aircraft carriers

WASHINGTON ? The new chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, was confirmed quickly by the Senate last week, but lawmakers made clear that the cost and growing vulnerability of aircraft carriers to ever-faster and evasive missiles will be among the issues he?s expected to tackle when he officially takes the reins.

The Navy?s main force projection tool, the carrier, became a punching bag for several lawmakers at Gilday?s confirmation hearing, as they alternately raised the threat posed by Chinese and Russian hypersonic missiles and berated the Navy?s future top admiral for the significant delays and cost overruns associated with the new carrier Gerald R. Ford.

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