...Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments with close ties to the Navy, said that without the F-35C, the service knows it is lacking the ability to fight inside heavily defended airspace. “They just have a challenge in countering IADS, particularly since the Navy doesn't yet have a 5th generation aircraft and their aircraft will still lack the ability to operate from the range where the carrier can be survivable in the early phases of a conflict,” Clark said. “It may be in future conflicts we will rely on stealthy bombers and ship/sub-launched missiles for the initial air defense rollback, supported by the CVW for jamming and escort missions. The CVW will then conduct strikes directly after anti-ship capabilities have been degraded and the CVN can pull in close enough to generate enough sorties to mount larger strike salvos.”
But Clark defended the Navy’s concept of developing a future F/A-XX sixth-generation fighter as a somewhat improved version of an “F/A-18E/F-like” machine—a ‘super’ Super Hornet. “The idea the CVW by itself has to be able to overcome S-300s and S-400s [doesn’t] really make sense. Also, we're moving away from relying on a set of airplanes being able to defeat IADS. It will require a combination of expendable decoys and jammers, standoff weapons, standoff jamming aircraft, and relatively large salvos of weapons from larger aircraft,” Clark said. “We're used to the CVW primarily doing strike warfare based on our last 30 years of experience. Maybe it will need to go back to its historic role of SUW [surface warfare], DCA [defensive counter air], and OCA [offensive counter air]. For example, the Navy is looking at ways the CVW can support bombers by acting as escorts and doing DCA.”..