U.S. Navy farewells F/A-18C Hornet aircraft

Cold war, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm - up to and including for example the A-10, F-15, Mirage 200, MiG-29, and F-18.
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marsavian

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Unread post02 Feb 2019, 21:02

https://defence-blog.com/news/u-s-navy- ... t.html/amp

Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 hosted a sundown ceremony and fly-over for the legacy F/A-18C Hornet aircraft at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., Feb. 01.

“Today our VFA-34 family and the operational farewells an old friend,” said Cmdr. William Mathis, commanding officer of VFA-34. “Born more than 40 years ago, the Hornet entered operational service for the U.S. Navy in 1984 and for the next 35 years, she proudly served the nation from the flight deck of aircraft carriers in all the seas across the globe.”

The F/A-18 Hornet entered operational service for the fleet in 1984. The aircraft’s first combat mission was in 1986 during Operation El Dorado Canyon and the legacy Hornet continued to serve in every major U.S. military operation including the Gulf War, Iraqi War, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve and most recently served in 2018 from the deck of USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) with Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 while conducting navigation patrols in the South China Sea.

The Blue Blasters of VFA-34 were the last squadron in the Navy flying the Hornet, most recently joining USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) to conduct Freedom of Navigation patrols in the South China Sea in 2018.


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Unread post03 Feb 2019, 02:24

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Unread post04 Feb 2019, 08:50

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Unread post04 Feb 2019, 15:52

No tears shed here. If anything, it's long over-due.

It served, although I'm hesitant to say with distinction. Yes, it downed 2 Mig-21's en route to bomb a target, did so and returned to the carrier etc.. But a victory over such an old airframe is to be expected IMO. As it stands, it's the only teen series fighter to be downed by a Mig (Mig-25 that downed Spike's F-18 opening night of the gulf war).

So a very mixed bag IMO. Now we must wait for the SH to go, and that's going to be around for a long, long time as the Navy's still buying them. The F-35C isn't going to replace it 1 for 1, so we'll have to wait for FA/XX to get here. Oh well, maybe the Super Duper will turn into something special. Not without up rated engines though, and the Navy doesn't want to spring for those...
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Unread post07 Feb 2019, 13:07

mixelflick wrote:No tears shed here. If anything, it's long over-due.

It served, although I'm hesitant to say with distinction. Yes, it downed 2 Mig-21's en route to bomb a target, did so and returned to the carrier etc.. But a victory over such an old airframe is to be expected IMO. As it stands, it's the only teen series fighter to be downed by a Mig (Mig-25 that downed Spike's F-18 opening night of the gulf war).

So a very mixed bag IMO. Now we must wait for the SH to go, and that's going to be around for a long, long time as the Navy's still buying them. The F-35C isn't going to replace it 1 for 1, so we'll have to wait for FA/XX to get here. Oh well, maybe the Super Duper will turn into something special. Not without up rated engines though, and the Navy doesn't want to spring for those...


I don't think that one isolated incident where one aircraft is shot down means it's bad aircraft. Shooting down couple of MiG-21s is not a big deal in itself, but to make it during air-to-ground mission while carrying 4 Mk84s, AIM-7, AIM-9 and EFT the whole time was pretty impressive then. Especially when they proceeded with their original mission right after the event. Of course I don't doubt that F-15E or possibly even F-16 (but without AIM-7) could not have done the same given chance.

I do think that Classic Hornet really served with distinction. During Desert Storm it carried out many missions including SEAD, CAP, CAS, AI and TAC/FAC. Sure F-16 did those also and the data I've read seems to indicate that they did fairly similarly well (effectiveness and survivability) in that campaign. Of course F-16 was and has been used more as many more were produced.

It was also found out to be very good fighter in many evaluations and won quite many competitions where there was actual comparison of different aircraft like Australia, Finland, Switzerland. AFAIK it also won South Korean competition in 1980s, but that was later changed to F-16 due to some financíal problems. IMO, F/A-18 was one of the best multi-role fighters during the last 35 years. Even in Swiss competition during 2008, it was not bad at all compared to EF Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and JAS Gripen.
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Unread post07 Feb 2019, 14:46

But you see, "not bad at all" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. It hasn't dominated the way USN/Iranian F-14's did. Or certainly in the way USAF/foreign F-15's have. Even the F-16's performance can be considered dominant vs. the F/A-18A/B/C/D. I'll reserve judgement on the Super Hornet until more numbers are in, but strongly suspect it'll be in the same "not bad at all" category.

About the best you can say about it is that it's "good enough". And that goes all the way back to it being forced on the fleet, to the point where we now have an all Hornet USN. Right, wrong or indifferent we're stuck with it at least until the F-35 gets here. Personally, I shudder at the thought of all Hornet air wings mixing it up with J-11's, J-10B's/C's, J-16's and especially J-20's. Because once you figure out how to defeat the Hornet, you've figured out how to defeat every single USN carrier air wing.

Instead, we could have had Super Tomcat 21's or another, more modern air superiority platform in the mix. Those new build F-14's would have been a lot more capable, insofar as everything from long range strike to BVR fleet defense. And they would have made an excellent 2nd day of war fighter/bomb truck. Far better vs. the Super Hornet IMO, especially in the speed and range department..
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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 04:44

mixelflick wrote: I'll reserve judgement on the Super Hornet until more numbers are in, but strongly suspect it'll be in the same "not bad at all" category.


It's been 35 years, what numbers are you waiting on?

mixelflick wrote:Personally, I shudder at the thought of all Hornet air wings mixing it up with J-11's, J-10B's/C's, J-16's and especially J-20's. Because once you figure out how to defeat the Hornet, you've figured out how to defeat every single USN carrier air wing.


Oh what nonsense, you're mixing hornets with Superhornets and F-14Ds with such arguments and it's hypothetical retrospective nonsense. So I'll have to presume you're talking about now, otherwise it's too absurd.

So, for that to occur an OPFOR would have to explore (as they die) all of what an upgraded classic Hornet could do, plus also all of what the SH can do. Which is not easy with a gen-4.5 context, especially when it's networked to a wider system-of-systems. On top of that a couple of the SH present will be Growlers, contesting the EM spectrum, without credible counterpart on the PLAAF PLAN side of things.

It's also silly because the USN is part of a Joint force (i.e. what's going to happen to them as they're trying to kill off Classic Hornets?) so god help any naval aviation or airforce that plans to explore the minutia of what a Classic Hornet can do to them and how to kill it, as the classic Hornet is clearly competitive with or better than all of the aircraft that you have mentioned, sans the J20.

And does anyone believe the J-20 is ready for prime time yet? My own examination of blown-up versions of the recent airshow J-20 weapon bay imagery is absent visible cables, pipes, boxes, hydraulics or pneumatics. i.e. apparently a display prototype and not an operational aircraft. Are there any then? If there are, why didn't they display one, with real inert weapons within a real operational weapon bay? The F-35 was showing its weapon bay from early in its testing program.

And would the old 3rd-gen come 4th gen F-14 really be any 'better', even in an A2A fight? Given you must be talking about a comparison with the present SH, the fleet interceptor, this is what the relevant indicator 'numbers' look like:

F-14D
Fuel Load lb 16,200
Empty Weight lb 44,800
Weapon Weight lb EMPTY
Full fuel Weight lb 61,000
Under MTOW lb 13,350
Dry Thrust lb 33,220
A/B Thrust lb 54,160
Dry Thrust 100% fuel 0.545
HP: lb Ratio 100% fuel 0.888
Dry Thrust 50% fuel 0.628
HP: lb Ratio 50% fuel 1.024

F/A-18F
Fuel Load lb 14,400 ... it has only 1,800 lb less internal fuel than an F-14D
Empty Weight lb 32,081 ... it has 2/3rd the weight of an F-14D
Weapon Weight lb EMPTY
Full fuel Weight lb 46,481 ... it has a 14,600 lb lighter MTOW
Under MTOW lb 19,519 ... it has 6,200 lb higher payload than the F-14D (and carries the AIM-120D)
Dry Thrust lb 26,000
A/B Thrust lb 44,000
Dry Thrust 100% fuel 0.559 ... higher dry thrust to weight than F-14D
HP: lb Ratio 100% fuel 0.947 ... higher A/B thrust to weight than F-14D
Dry Thrust 50% fuel 0.662 ... higher dry thrust to weight than F-14D
HP: lb Ratio 50% fuel 1.120 ... higher A/B thrust to weight than F-14D

The only reason the F-14D is faster was a swing-wing design which allowed a lower drag and higher cruise speed, thus a lower specific-fuel-consumption over all. But put the maximum EFT loads on them and you get this:

F-14D Int Fuel + 2 x 267 US Gal = 19,698 lb = 74,350 lb with full bags and weapons

F/A-18F Int Fuel + 2 x 480 US Gal = 22,260 lb =
F/A-18F Int Fuel + 3 x 480 US Gal = 26,190 lb = 66,000 lb with full bags and weapons

For completeness, here are the T:W ratios for those max loads:

F-14D @ 74,350 lb 2 x 267 US Gal
- Dry Thrust 100% fuel 0.447
- HP: lb Ratio 100% fuel 0.728
- Dry Thrust 50% fuel 0.517
- HP: lb Ratio 50% fuel 0.843

F/A-18F @ 66,000 lb 3 x 480 US Gal
- Dry Thrust 100% fuel 0.394
- HP: lb Ratio 100% fuel 0.667
- Dry Thrust 50% fuel 0.501
- HP: lb Ratio 50% fuel 0.848

The F-14D is also 12.7% heavier when thus loaded with fuel and stores, so its presumed advantages in lower-drag from the wing-sweep are being eaten up by extra weight and AOA. Those are the numbers, they've been available for a long time.

So how is the SH/F allegedly inferior to the F-14D in strike range?

From Spring this year the SH adds LRASM range on top of its current strike range.

As pop pointed out yesterday, if you have the long-range SA advantage you also have more time to plan and act, to get to where you need to be. Other than cruise speed and raw acceleration, the F/A-18F is much superior to the F-14D everywhere. This endless questioning of the Hornet's suitability to replace the F-14D against the available opposition of the day, can't be taken seriously.

But even a classic C/D Hornet would not get owned by the F-14D in A2A. The AIM-54 was for shooting down heavy bombers, not for use against alerted fighters (and it would be alerted). This would be a modern AIM-120D fight. Nor would the C/D flounder against any of the PLAAF/PLAN jets you mentioned, on the contrary.

And then there's the rapid expansion in naval missile capabilities too (the ability for SM-3 to poke out the eyes of OPFOR observation and tracking satellites for instance) and expanded missile sensors and co-op engagement capabilities and EA/EW, for the ship-based defenses that have been constant and on-going during the Hornet-only era in USN service. This is all relevant context to your imagined crisis of NAVAIR capability and asserted USN carrier relative vulnerability.

Where was there ever a risk of Classic Hornets being wiped out? Who was going to do this? The guys who just had their air bases, bunkers and HQ hammered by B-2s?

And this month the F-35C is in initial-operational service.

Then there's MQ-25A tankers to come and BKIII CFTs, so any further dissing of the reach (and A2A relevance) of Hornets or the SH as replacement of the F-14D, is clearly irrelevant BS.

The Classic Hornets and the SH have been the right jets for the prevailing times and conditions, and the precision-strike firepower of the USN carriers went up by at least an order of magnitude since their introduction, requiring less bombs to get more targets destroyed. The present USN carrier air is more deterring and effective than ever before, and is about to become a lot more deterring. And a large part of that increase in capability to come is because of the fuller exploitation of the F/A-18E/F/G's still latent untapped range and capability potential, not just due to the F-35C.

Frankly, your view is just a personal bias that can not be taken seriously, and is not commensurate with objective comparisons of the Hornet or SH's actual abilities, their comparative numbers, or their operational service context.
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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 11:36

and BKIII CFTs


another 3,500 pounds (515 gallons) of fuel each or 7000 lb in total. Indirectly too we may have been told that the frontal stealth of the Super Hornet clean is less than those two external 480 gal tanks and their pylons.

https://www.military.com/daily-news/201 ... ornet.html

The conformal fuel tanks are aerodynamically designed to help the F/A-18 have a lower detectability or signature. Boeing officials have said the conformal fuel tanks reduce the signature of the aircraft by over 50 percent.
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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 12:29

marsavian wrote:
and BKIII CFTs


another 3,500 pounds (515 gallons) of fuel each or 7000 lb in total. Indirectly too we may have been told that the frontal stealth of the Super Hornet clean is less than those two external 480 gal tanks and their pylons.

https://www.military.com/daily-news/201 ... ornet.html

The conformal fuel tanks are aerodynamically designed to help the F/A-18 have a lower detectability or signature. Boeing officials have said the conformal fuel tanks reduce the signature of the aircraft by over 50 percent.


And even if it keeps the EFTs and adds CFTs and AAMs, plus 2 x LRASM (i.e. for standoff which makes the RCS considerations more or less irrelevant) it's still under its max load and is approaching F-15E fuel loads and comparable ranges, with a tactical tanker in support. Add in F-35C data and the Hornet of next decade has some serious sting.
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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 12:35

But even a classic C/D Hornet would not get owned by the F-14D in A2A. The AIM-54 was for shooting down heavy bombers, not for use against alerted fighters (and it would be alerted). This would be a modern AIM-120D fight.


Somebody (Growling Sidewinder) has explored this in DCS with all the provisos about inaccuracies of simulations, still it gives you a flavor of how it might turn out.

Only the F-15 survived (3rd video) and won doing a lot of dodging/notching/hiding against a Phoenix barrage. F-18C didn't make it but no doubt the F-18E with its more powerful radar and missiles and lower stealth would be a different story. The Phoenix is already proven against Iraqi MiG fighters of all types (21/23/25) as well as Mirage F1.






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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 14:21

Let's not forget a prowler or growler would be supporting. :wink:
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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 14:41

Nothing about this so called "objective comparison" changes this..

The Hornet is a compromise, and a lesser aircraft than we could have procured to fly, fight and win in. It is cheap though, I'll give you that. Like a $10 pair of WalMart sneakers...

Also..

"Other than cruise speed and raw acceleration, the F/A-18F is much superior to the F-14D everywhere. This endless questioning of the Hornet's suitability to replace the F-14D against the available opposition of the day, can't be taken seriously."

As if cruise speed and raw acceleration are minor predictive values of combat capability LOL. It would have controlled vastly greater areas of airspace, gotten there faster, stayed longer, imparted much greater energy to AMRAAM shots etc. Better range for the SH you say? Then why were only F-14D's capable of hitting targets deep in Afghanistan when it came time to do so? And your comparison to the F-14D is disingenuous, because the Navy had before it options to procure the Super Tomcat 21 and related aircraft in the F-14 family, vs. buying the "Super" Hornet. It was not contemplating procuring additional F-14D's. By almost any measure, the Super Tomcat 21 had it all over the SH, including all of its advanced systems/tricks that have been added since your vaunted SH joined the fleet.

"The Super Tomcat 21 would be a modification of the original F-14 design and it was to feature GE-F110-129 motors that would allow the Tomcat to super-cruise (achieve mach 1+ without using afterburner) continuously at mach 1.3 (something only the F-22 could accomplish (in service) in 2005). Additionally, the jet would have an upgraded APG-71 radar (with a nose much larger/capable of holding a far more powerful radar than the SH) modified and enlarged control surfaces, and enlarged leading edge root extensions (LERX) that would house more fuel and enhance the jet's low speed handling capabilities. Thrust vectoring nozzles tied directly to a new digital flight control system were also an option. These modifications would give the "Turkey Bird" true super-maneuverability and eye-watering acceleration and sustained speed. Additionally, super-cruise combined with its additional internal fuel carriage capacity would have given the Super Tomcat much greater range than it already had. The jet would also be able to carry targeting and navigation pods, giving it true multi-role capability. Finally, a new single-piece windscreen would be added to provide much better forward visibility."

THIS is the aircraft the Navy would have built, were it not for its unfortunate decision to build the SH. NOT the F-14D. ST21 had it all over the SH in virtually every available metric. So instead of Super Compromises littering CVN decks today, we could have a super-cruising, super-maneuverable, REAL long legged, ultra-fast kick a$$ strike fighter that would have a decisive edge over any Russian or Chinese Flanker (pick one).

More from Foxtrotalpha article on ST21..

"A side note: I once talked to an accomplished engineer that worked for Grumman on the Super Tomcat 21 proposal. He told me that the performance models they were seeing with the Super Tomcat design were absolutely stunning and the jet's low speed handling, especially with thrust vectoring and the bigger engines, and the sheer amount of territory it could cover in a single mission were unprecedented. This man went on to work for "other contractors" on major fighter programs, but he maintains that the Super Tomcat's maneuvering performance and ability to operate as a fighter [b][i]independent of tanker assets (Hornets of all types overly depend on tankers) over large distances has still not been accomplished in any US or foreign design to this day."[/b][/i]

That's what we gave up, to produce the Super Compromise. NOT the F-14D...
Last edited by mixelflick on 08 Feb 2019, 15:50, edited 2 times in total.
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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 14:43

element1loop wrote:Let's not forget a prowler or growler would be supporting. :wink:


Also ECM against Phoenix was one of the first projects done after the fall of the Shah. I presume that is now standard in all US aircraft.

soon after the Shah’s demise, its Naval Test Center at Point Mugu, California, was assigned a series of top-priority tasks. It was instructed to develop electronic countermeasures aimed at defeating the AIM-54A systems sold to Iran, and to ensure that US AIM-54s would be invulnerable to Iranian electronic countermeasures. The test center was also told to modify the F-14’s ICWD radar warning devices to detect emissions from Iranian AWG-9 radars at extreme range.
From the start of the Tomcat programme, the US Navy had never invested additional funds on upgrades. However, with the fall of the Shah, it was now apparently prepared to spend $200 million on these two projects alone.
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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 15:13

mixelflick wrote:Nothing about this so called "objective comparison" changes this..

The Hornet is a compromise, and a lesser aircraft than we could have procured to fly, fight and win in. It is cheap though, I'll give you that. Like a $10 pair of WalMart sneakers...


Day VFR A2A F-16A.

Not like that changed much. :roll:
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Unread post08 Feb 2019, 16:03

hornetfinn wrote:
mixelflick wrote:No tears shed here. If anything, it's long over-due.

It served, although I'm hesitant to say with distinction. Yes, it downed 2 Mig-21's en route to bomb a target, did so and returned to the carrier etc.. But a victory over such an old airframe is to be expected IMO. As it stands, it's the only teen series fighter to be downed by a Mig (Mig-25 that downed Spike's F-18 opening night of the gulf war).

So a very mixed bag IMO. Now we must wait for the SH to go, and that's going to be around for a long, long time as the Navy's still buying them. The F-35C isn't going to replace it 1 for 1, so we'll have to wait for FA/XX to get here. Oh well, maybe the Super Duper will turn into something special. Not without up rated engines though, and the Navy doesn't want to spring for those...


I don't think that one isolated incident where one aircraft is shot down means it's bad aircraft. Shooting down couple of MiG-21s is not a big deal in itself, but to make it during air-to-ground mission while carrying 4 Mk84s, AIM-7, AIM-9 and EFT the whole time was pretty impressive then. Especially when they proceeded with their original mission right after the event. Of course I don't doubt that F-15E or possibly even F-16 (but without AIM-7) could not have done the same given chance.


To be fair, the two MiG-21s were downed during a frontal engagement. There was no dogfight. One of the two Hornet pilots involved in the shoot down even said that they would have jettisoned their bombs (thus aborting the mission) if the MiGs had survived to the merge so i think the significance of that performance should be downplayed a bit...

That said, i think the Hornet was a decent aircraft that served the USN well but it clearly had some deficiencies. Short legs and poor bring-back capability come to mind. Its poor range and endurance is especially damning for a carrier-borne aircraft when carrier aviation is all about power projection. I guess it wasnt too much of a problem when the A-6 and the F-14 were still there to pick up the slack but once they were gone, the ability to project large scale air power over long distances diminished dramatically with those all-F/A-18 air wings... so the Hornet is a mixed bag IMO. It had many undeniable qualities but also a few (severe) limitations.

I am even more critical of the Super Hornet which was barely an improvement over the Classic Hornet. Just two more hardpoints, a modest increase in range (13% IIRC) and inferior kinematics. I do not consider that money well spent. Especially when the USN sacrified an awful lot to pay for the SH, an aircraft that they didnt even want in the first place and that was forced on them for political reasons.
Last edited by Tiger05 on 08 Feb 2019, 16:18, edited 1 time in total.
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