The AIM-54 is no more. Even though the Tomcat (the only platform able to carry it) lives on (at least for awhile), the Phoenix missile has been retired as of September '04.
The Navy has been arguing internally for many years about the decision to retire the Tomcat and replace it with the Super Hornet. It was a painful decision. The Tomcat performance is hard to beat, but its reliability is low, maintenance man hours per flight hour way high, fuel consumption was high and while it is a great air-to-air platform, it is lacking in air-to-ground capability. Its bring-back (ability to bring back unexpended ordnance to a carrier landing so they don’t have to be jettisoned) was also too low for comfort plus many other considerations. The Navy is heavily involved in standardizing on as few platforms as possible, rationalizing down to a few different airframes. The original Hornet replaced the F-4, the A-7, and the A-4. Later, it replaced the A-3 and then the A-6. Soon the F-14 will be gone, and soon after, the EA-6 will be gone also, replaced by the EA-18G. The F-18E/F also means fewer S-3s are needed, although it will never totally replace all S-3s.
The F-18E/F reliability and low maintenance time, high bring back, ability to fly two carrier cycles per sortie, and many other features enables the Navy to generate more than twice as many sorties per day per carrier. That’s why the Navy, which has ALWAYS fought tooth and nail against Congressional actions to reduce the size of the carrier fleet, has now VOLUNTEERED to retire a carrier!! The Super Hornet enables them to do much more with fewer carriers. You’ve gotta look at the BIG picture.
As for the Hornet’s lack luster sustained turn performance, that is much less a consideration in today’s air-to-air environment. The new AESA radar and other sensors coupled with the new versions of the AIM-120 make getting into a furball in the first place much less likely. And in the event you get jumped and have to fight a visual fight, with the AIM-9X and helmet sight cuing, if the pilot sees the target, he can fire without hardly any maneuvering. Instantaneous turn rate is critical to get the aircraft pointed in the general direction of the target, but once you’re pointed so that the target is almost anywhere in the forward hemisphere of the aircraft, helmet sight cuing and the AIM9X do all the work. It is a sight to behold.