>>Id like to hear from a pilot on this one.<<
Former F-14 Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) and later, “retread” Pilot:
The Block III upgrades are good. The limiting factor from the beginning to this day for all F/A-18 models is effective combat radius. The Navy forfeited the medium range attack mission when it cancelled the A/X program and retired the A-6. The F-14 “Bombcat” was a stopgap measure, and the aircraft proved to be a stable & reasonably capable bomber with good legs. Maintenance man hours per flight hour for the F-14 was off the charts, though, particularly as the airframe aged.
The range and lethality of the bad guys’ surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missile systems I’m guessing are causing the carrier expeditionary groups to stand farther out to sea, making it even more difficult for the air wing to project power inland and for sea control.
The Navy will have to decide if it wants to reclaim the medium range attack mission. If they do, my guess is it may be in the form of an unmanned platform.
Swarms of Asian Killer Hornets with frickin’ laser beams.