F/A-18E Super Hornet, McDonnell Douglas

F/A-18E Super Hornet

Twin-engined shipboard fighter, developed from the F-18. Because of its dual role as attack aircraft, it is officially known as the F/A-18E. The substantially modified F-18E 'Super Hornet', was rolled out at the end of 1995 and made its first carrier landing in early 1997. This F-18E and the two-seat F-18F can be recognized easily by their rectangular engine intakes, which reduced radar reflection and provide a greater mass flow for their more powerful engines. The F-18E is also longer, has a bigger wing with two additional hardpoints and has sturdier landing gear to cope with the increased weight. Range has been increased by 40%. The F-18E is entered service in 1999.

Type: F/A-18E
Country: USA
Function: fighter / attack
Year: 1999
Crew: 1
Engines: 2 * 97.9 kN G.E. F414-GE-400
Wing Span: 13.62 m
Wing Aspect Ratio: 4
Length: 18.31 m
Height: 4.88 m
Wing Area: 46.30 m2
Empty Weight: 13387 kg
Max.Weight: 29937 kg
Speed: Mach 1.8+
Ceiling: 15240 m (other sources claim 13865 m)
Range: 1095 km on hi-hi-hi interdiction mission with 4 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs, 2 AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, and 2 drop tanks
Range ferry: 3055 km
g-Limits : 7.6 positive
Armament: 1 20 mm M61A1/A2 Vulcan cannon, external payload up to 8,050 kg

F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a fighter and attack aircraft in service with the United States Navy. The Super Hornet is essentially an all-new aircraft, with similar appearance to and some systems carried over from the F/A-18C/D Hornet. The fighter is colloquially referred to as the "Rhino" (for its prodigious nose). The Super Hornet was ordered from McDonnell Douglas in 1992, first flew in November 1995, made its first carrier landing in 1997 and entered service in 1999. Current versions include the F/A-18E single-seater and F/A-18F two-seater. These are replacing the older F/A-18 models in the Navy's inventory, as well as the F-14 Tomcats.

The Super Hornet maintained the "F/A-18" designation for political reasons only (to procure the development of an essentially new combat aircraft at a time when Congress was unwilling to sponsor new military systems); if the plane had been designated in proper sequence, its designation would have been "F-24A." (the "F-24" designation seems politically undesirable for some reason, it was also recommended for the operational version of the X-35, which was adopted as the F-35 Lightning II).

The early 1990s brought a number of problems for US naval aviation. The A-12 Avenger II program, intended to replace the obsolete A-6 Intruders and A-7 Corsair IIs, had run into serious problems and was cancelled. The Gulf War revealed that the Navy's strike capability lagged that of the Air Force in certain respects. With no clean-sheet program likely to produce results before about 2020, updating an existing design became an attractive approach. One such proposal was the "Super Hornet" (or, originally, "Hornet II"), originally put forward in the 1980s to improve early F/A-18 models.

Compared with its predecessor, the Super Hornet has a 25 % larger wing that allows the aircraft to return to an aircraft carrier with a larger load of unspent munitions. This had become important with the greater use of more expensive, precision-guided weapons and a growing consciousness about avoiding collateral damage. The fuselage was stretched to carry more fuel and room for future avionics upgrades. An engine with 35 % more power, the General Electric F414, was developed to power this larger, heavier aircraft. The aircraft can carry five 440-US-gallon (1700-litre) external fuel tanks for long-distance ferry flights or four tanks plus an Aerial Refuelling Store (ARS), or "buddy store," which permits the Super Hornet to refuel other aircraft. Other differences include angular intakes for the engines, a smaller radar cross section (RCS), two extra wing hardpoints for payload, and other aerodynamic changes. By the end of all this, the Super Hornet shared little with earlier F/A-18's aft of the forward fuselage.

Upgraded avionics being introduced in the Super Hornet include the APG-79 AESA radar, the ASQ-228 ATFLIR (Advanced Targeting FLIR), and the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System.

An electronic attack version of the F/A-18F, the EA-18G Growler, will replace the Navy's and Marine Corps' EA-6B Prowler and the already-retired Air Force EF-111 Ravens. F/A-18F "F-1" was re-fitted with ALQ-99 electronic-warfare system, and successfully completed an initial flight demonstration of the EA-18 Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) concept aircraft flight November 15 2001. Two test EA-18Gs aircraft are in assembly as of late 2005, and are expected to fly in late 2006.

Super Hornet development

On January 7, 1991, the troubled General Dynamics/McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II attack aircraft was cancelled. McDonnell Douglas immediately proposed as an alternative a stretched version of the F/A-18 optimised for the attack role. Although it was essentially a new aircraft, it was assigned the designation F/A-18E (single seat) or F/A-18F (two-seat), implying that the proposal was merely a modified version of an already tried and true design.

The F/A-18E/F was an outgrowth of the Hornet 2000 design study of the 1980s. The F/A-18E/F is designed to perform some of the duties originally planned for the F-14D and the A-12. One of the more important goals of the project is a 40 percent increase in the Hornet's range, which is often quoted as the Hornet's primary weakness.

In order to provide more space for internal fuel, an extra fuselage plug is added, increasing the overall length of the F/A-18E/F by 2 feet 10 inches. Over that of the F/A-18C/D. The wing is proportionally enlarged by 25 percent, with an increase in wingspan of 4 feet 3 1/2 inches and an increase of 100 square feet in area. The increase in wing size is accompanied by a deepening at the roots to take extra loads. The new wing has no twist or camber and is stressed for extra operating weight. The wing of the F/A-18E/F has an outboard leading edge chord extension, leading to a definite "dogtooth" which is not present on the F/A-18C/D.

By enlarging the wing area and adding a fuselage plug, 3,000 pounds of additional fuel can be carried, which is 33 percent more than the capacity of the standard Hornet. A fleet air defense F/A-18E/F carrying four AMRAAMS, two AIM-9s and external tanks would be able to loiter on station for 71 minutes at a distance of 400 nautical miles from its carrier, as opposed to only 58 minutes for the F-14D.

The F/A-18E/F is provided with two extra underwing hardpoints (Nos 2 and 10) at about two-thirds of span, outboard of the existing pylons. This raises the total external stores carriage capability to 17,750 pounds. The gross weight is increased by about 11,600 pounds. The aircraft has a higher landing weight, which allows it to return to its carrier with an increased weight of unexpended ordnance (up to 9000 pounds). Increased space for chaff and flares is provided. The increase is from 60 to 120 canisters. A simplified and strengthened undercarriage is to be fitted, enabling takeoff weights as high as 66,000 pounds.

The F/A-18E/F will be powered by a pair of uprated General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans. The F414 engine is in the 20,000 to 22,000 lb.s.t. class, offering 35 percent more thrust than the F404 from which it is derived. It incorporates some of the features intended for the F412, the powerplant of the now-cancelled A-12. A completely re-designed engine air intake of trapezoidal configuration replaces the D-shaped intakes of the earlier Hornets. These intakes will provide 18 percent more air to the uprated engines and will give better performance at high speed.

The area of the twin vertical fins is increased by 15 percent. The rudder area is increased by 54 percent and the range of movement is such that they can be deflected 10 degrees more, up to 40 degrees. The tailplane will be made of improved composites, and the area of the tailplanes is increased by 36 percent. The areas of the leading edge root extensions was increased by 34 percent in order to restore the degree of maneuverability at 30-35 degree angles of attack enjoyed by the current Hornet.

Some stealth technology will be incorporated in the F/A-18E/F, notably on the wing leading edges to augment the beneficial effect of skinning with large areas of carbon epoxy. The radar cross section is expected to be approximately that of the F-16.

The radar is to be the Hughes AN/APG-73 that is used by later-build F/A-18Cs. The single seat F/A-18E will have the 5 x 5-inch central display of the F/A-18C replaced by a new 8in x 8in flat panel active matrix LCD. The two other 5in x 5in multipurpose CRT screens are retained, as is the existing HUD, except that the control panel just below it will be replaced by a monochrome touch-sensitive screen. All displays (two CRTs, one color LCD, and one monochrome LCD) will be made by Kaiser. The rear cockpit of the F/A-18F will have identical instrumentation, except that it has no HUD and the 8in x 8in screen is located above the landscape-format touch screen.

The definitive F/A-18E/F development contract was signed on December 7, 1992. It calls for three static test airframes, five F/A-18Es, and three F/A-18Fs. McDonnell Douglas opened the F/A-18E/F assembly line in St Louis on September 23, 1994. Production of the center/aft fuselage began in May 1994 at Northrop Grumman in Hawthorne, California. The Navy has assigned the name Super Hornet to the project. The prototype F/A-18E Super Hornet (BuNo 165164) was rolled out on September 18, 1995 at St. Louis. It took off on its first test flight on November 29, 1995, with McDonnell Douglas project test pilot Fred Madenwald at the controls. Aside from a minor environmental control system indication, the aircraft handled well on its first flight.

Ten test aircraft were scheduled to be built, seven of which will be flight test aircraft (five Es and two Fs) and the other three will be ground test articles. The flight test program was scheduled to begin in February 1996 at the Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) at Patuxent River, Maryland. Acquisition of an initial production batch of 12 (named Low-Rate Initial Production I, or LRIP I) was planned for Fiscal Year 1997, with assembly of the first production aircraft to begin in 1998 and service entry due in 2001.

The type will replace early F/A-18As and other USN/USMC tactical aircraft as they are retired. Peak production is to be 48 aircraft year, which should be reached in 2001. As many as a thousand F/A-18E/F Super Hornets may eventually be purchased, at a total cost of 49 billion dollars, in a program lasting until 2014.

Some critics accuse the F/A-18E/F for providing not much more than an increased range and a larger bring-back weight for such a high cost. In addition, it is essentially a non-stealthy aircraft that will have to fly in a combat environment in which low-observability will be increasingly vital for survival.

The first landing by the Super Hornet aboard an aircraft carrier took place on January 18, 1997, when an F/A-18F landed on the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). Carrier trials began after flight testing was suspended briefly in December 1996 when a test aircraft experience a compressor stall. The first production Super Hornet (BuNo 165533) flew for the first time on November 9, 1998. This was the first of a dozen low-rate initial production Super Hornets.

A problem was encountered with "wing drop" during test and evaluation, which caused Secretary of Defense William Cohen to threaten to suspend further funding of the project unless it was fixed. However, the addition of a porous wing-fold fairing seems to have fixed the problem, and cleared the way for the Navy to award Boeing a contract for the second low-rate initial production contract (LRIP II) for 20 aircraft in the FY 1998 budget. These were scheduled for delivery by October of 2000.

Fiscal year 1999 budget included 30 aircraft (14 single seaters and 16 two-seaters), which were scheduled for completion in September 2001.

Beginning on May 27, 1999, the F/A-18E/F underwent operational evaluation with VX-9 at NAS China Lake, California. Seven production model Super Hornets went through an exhaustive series of tests to assess the aircraft's capabilities in operational missions. Three single seaters and four two-seaters were involved. The first operational unit to get the Super Hornet was VFA-122, based at NaS Lemoore, California. This unit received their first seven planes on November 17, 1999 when they flew in from NAS China Lake after completion of the operational evaluation phase.

text by: Joseph Baugher

General Characteristics, E and F models

Primary Function: Multi-role attack and fighter aircraft
Contractor: McDonnell Douglas
Unit Cost: $ 35 million
Propulsion: Two F414-GE-400 turbofan engines
Thrust: 22,000 pounds (9,977 kg) static thrust per engine
Length: 60.3 feet (18.5 meters)
Height: 16 feet (4.87 meters)
Maximum Take Off Gross Weight: 66,000 pounds (29,932 kg)
Wingspan: 44.9 feet (13.68 meters)
Ceiling: 50,000+ feet
Speed: Mach 1.8+
A,C and E models: One
B,D and F models: Two
Armament: One 20mm M-61A1 Vulcan cannon;
External payload: AIM 9 Sidewinder, AIM 7 Sparrow, AIM-120 AMRAAM, Harpoon, Harm, Shrike, SLAM, SLAM-ER, Walleye, Maverick missiles; Joint Stand-Off Weapon (JSOW); Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM); various general purpose bombs, mines and rockets.
First Flight December 1995

EA-18 Growler

The Boeing EA-18G Growler is a carrier-based electronic warfare version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet. It is slated to begin production in 2008, with fleet deployment in 2009. The EA-18G will replace the US Navy's EA-6B Prowler.

The US Navy has ordered a total of 57 airplanes to replace its existing EA-6B Prowlers in service, all of which will be based at NAS Whidbey Island save for Reserve Squadron VAQ-209 based at NAF Washington. Regular production is slated to begin in 2008, with Initial Operational Capability expected in 2009. The Navy is planning to buy 90 aircraft in order to equip 10 squadrons.

The Growler has more than 90% in common with the standard Super Hornet, sharing airframe, AESA radar and weapon systems such as the AN/AYK-22 Stores Management System. The 20mm Vulcan cannon is removed from the nose to add additional electronics (and in other parts of the airframe as well), ALQ-218 wingtip receivers are added to the wings, also ALQ-99 high-band and low-band jammers. The jamming equipment and external fuel tanks adds drag, despite such; the EA-18G will have longer range and loiter time over the target area.

EA-18Gs will carry AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles for self-defense, and two AGM-88 HARM missiles, or AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided) missiles for destroying enemy radar sites. Boeing is looking into other potential upgrades; the AN/ALQ-99 radar jamming pod might be replaced in the future, and the company is looking into adding weapons and replacing the satellite communications receiver.

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