(From War is Boring)
While it is true that no version of the F/A-18E/F will ever be able to offer an exact analogue of the F-35’s capabilities, the reaction inside the Beltway was typically biased. Trump’s statement cannot be interpreted exactly literally.
More likely, the President-elect was suggesting that a variant of the Super Hornet airframe could meet many of the capabilities that the F-35 offers at a more reasonable price.
For the U.S. Navy, there is a strong argument to be made that an Advanced Super Hornet derivative could offer an 80 percent solution for a lower price than the F-35C. And while such an F/A-18 derivative would not precisely meet all of the U.S. Air Force’s requirements as embodied in the F-35A, the Super Hornet is a perfectly capable shore-based strike fighter as the Royal Australian Air Force demonstrates on a daily basis.