WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy Reserve's F/A-18A+ Hornets are relics of the Reagan era, but the fleet still uses them to play the bad guy in air-to-air combat simulations. Now the House Armed Services Committee wants the U.S. Navy to plan on replacing them, according to a version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act released Monday.

The U.S. Navy Reserve has two squadrons of the planes — 33 all together — that they use predominantly as opposition forces for training aviators and painted to look like Russian MiG fighters. But they are supposed to be kept at a high level of readiness to serve as replacement jets if the U.S. Navy suffers combat losses in a crisis. 

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The problem, according to the language in Chairman Mac Thornberry's mark of the FY18 NDAA, is that the fighters lag behind the rest of the fleet's Super Hornets in terms of technology and can't fully integrate into today's carrier air wing.

"The committee ... believes these legacy F/A-18+ aircraft need to be recapitalized with next-generation capability in order to provide realistic, threat-representative training for aviators and to maintain operational readiness that provides a relevant and deployable backstop to the Active Duty air wings," the bill reads.

The bill directs that the secretary of the Navy come up with a plan and present it to the committee no later than Dec. 1 of this year.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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