F-18 vs. F-35: Why Is Trump Talking Up the Super Hornet?
Policy + Politics

F-18 vs. F-35: Why Is Trump Talking Up the Super Hornet?

Wikimedia Commons

In remarks at a Boeing event in South Carolina Friday, President Trump dangled the possibility that the Pentagon might be in the market for more F-18 Super Hornets, the multirole fighter that has been the backbone of naval combat aviation for years.

“We are seriously looking at a big order [of F-18s],” he told the crowd at a Boeing plant in Charleston that had gathered for the rollout of the 787-10 Dreamliner, a larger version of the company’s latest passenger jet.

In the past, Trump has suggested that the F-18 might be a less expensive alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which currently costs about $95 million apiece and up, depending on the version.

Related: Is the F-35 Really Streaking by Its Troubled Past?

But it was unclear if the Negotiator-in-Chief was serious or just putting more pressure on Lockheed Martin, which he has already jawboned at least twice to bring down the cost of the F-35, the most expensive fighter in history.

At about $60 million a plane, the F-18 is considerably cheaper than the F-35, although the next version, the Advanced Super Hornet, might jack up the price tag considerably. And as F-35s are produced in more volume, the cost is dropping.

There are major differences between the two aircrafts besides price, the biggest being stealth. An F-35 is built to evade radar; an F-18 is not, at least not the current versions.

Popular Science has written that suggesting that an F-18 can do the same job as an F-35 is “like suggesting a cruise ship can do the job of an aircraft carrier.”