Why is there so little love for the F-18 Super Hornet?

Military aircraft - Post cold war aircraft, including for example B-2, Gripen, F-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale, and Typhoon.
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HaveVoid

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Unread post17 Feb 2012, 02:10

southernphantom wrote:But does it work?? :P
I'd love to see some Adder tests under semi-realistic conditions. That might be telling, since an aircraft is only as good as the weapons it can bring to the fight. I hope y'all remember what happened with Alamos against Eritrea/Ethiopia...


What would make you think that the Adder hasn't been tested under realistic conditions? I would think that nations such as India and China would have no doubt conducted testing on the system, let alone the Russians who designed it.

WRT to the Alamos in Africa, I've always wondered just how well those missiles and aircraft were maintained. Sparrows didn't fair so well in steamy Vietnam at first. I wouldn't necessarily consider the Ethiopian and Eritrean air arms to be the non plus ultra of aircraft maintainers .


HV :)
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aaam

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Unread post19 Feb 2012, 05:25

HaveVoid wrote:I think any discussion about the anti-Super Hornet sentiments that prevail greatly also needs to include the simple fact that it had the dubious honor of replacing the jet that gets more people stirred up than any other USN aircraft, the F-14. I hate to say it, but any discussion with an F-14 fan will leave you scratching your head as to all the ways in which they claim the Tomcat was superior to every aircraft ever built.

The Super Hornet is something of a Jack of all trades, master of none. It isn't the A2A performer that is the F-15C for example, nor is it the striker that is the F-15E (yes, not naval aircraft, but you get the point). However, when faced with replacing the F-14, A-6, S-3, and EA-6B with a common aircraft, you have to make compromises. All in all, I think they got a darn good aircraft out of the deal.



As an F-14 fan, let me respond to this.

It is true that there was resentment in the Tomcat community regarding the Bug. Some of that was due to a lot of the F-14's potential never being realized partly due to decisions by higher-ups not to have anything compete with the F/A-18. Remember, the F-14A was not supposed to be the production version. It would not be inaccurate to say that for most of the Tomcat's career, it would be as if almost all of the F-22s built were the EMD model.

Regarding the SH, please refer to my Feb. 10 post, for a more detailed discussion. Briefly, The definitive F-14 was canceled and the SH was imposed on the Navy. There was an enormous amount of bait and switch regarding the Super Bug's promised capabilities, and mission requirements were designed around what the a/c could do rather than the other way around. SH was not mooted as a replacement for the F-14, S-3, A-6 and EA-6B. It was sold as a "bridge" to the A/FX, A lot was given up to get the SH, which is unquestionably a super reliable a/c, so the resentment goes deeper than just the Tomcat community.

Dealing specifically with the F-14, and please remember the valid comparison is between the F-14D Block IV and the SH as originally specified. The Tomcat was a better overall fighter and in its Block IV configuration a better strike a/c. As you correctly state, SH was not the striker that the F-15E was, MDD who built both said so as well, but F-14 Block IV was, and even arguably somewhat better except in payload/range (Strike Eagles carry a lot of fuel). This is not that far out. The APG-71 of the Tomcat is essentially a more powerful version of the APG-70 of the Strike Eagle and also has a larger antenna. The displays in the rear cockpit were better, and because of other onboard equipment, it could use LANTIRN very well and could lase from higher altitudes.

So, the resentment in the US was that we paid a lot to get less (while acknowledging it's cheaper to operate). This isn't restricted solely to the Tomcatters. Frankly. there's some jealously directed towards Rafale _M, which is performing the same role and developed in roughly the same timeframe. You hear about the Tomcat a lot because that was the alternative and because a number of less than above board comparisons were made. To cite just one, SH absolutely requires less mmh/fh than F-14 would ever be able to achieve. That is accurate and undeniable. But, during the justification, the figures used for the Tomcat were mostly F-14A numbers, while the a/c that was the actual alternative was the D and it required a lot less maintenance.

The SH is a fine a/c, but we could have had so much more (and I'm including A/FX in here, although this would be true even without it). IMHO, Europe did better, they just have lacked the will to "Be all that they could be".

Yes, the SH of 2012 has superb avionics, but you could put that in anything.

Truly, it's all really academic now.
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shingen

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Unread post19 Feb 2012, 05:36

i think maybe they wanted the cheapest thing that could get the job done so they could save $ and keep carriers. The thought being that later, a better plane/UCAV could replace the SH. There's also the issue of how much $ there is int he Naval Aviation budget and with the P-3 getting old, and a lot of use they need a replacement for that too.

I've never heard of the Rafale envy before. Based on kinematics?
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aaam

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Unread post20 Feb 2012, 02:59

shingen wrote:i think maybe they wanted the cheapest thing that could get the job done so they could save $ and keep carriers. The thought being that later, a better plane/UCAV could replace the SH. There's also the issue of how much $ there is int he Naval Aviation budget and with the P-3 getting old, and a lot of use they need a replacement for that too.

I've never heard of the Rafale envy before. Based on kinematics?


Unfortunately you are working from the revisionist history that has come out over the years. You are operating from the logical but sadly inaccurate assumption that the Navy evaluated both the F-14D and SH and chose the latter. As I've stated elsewhere, USN had standardized on F-14D for its fighter and secondary strike needs and was expecting A-12 to replace the A-6, which was their most critical need. But then SECDEF Cheney suddenly canceled F-14D production just as it was entering service. When A-12 collapsed, DoD order Navy to buy SH as an "interim" a/c until A-X (later A/FX) could come on line. Navy came back and in next budget submission asked for zero money for SH and reinstatement of F-14. DoD again said no and ordered USN to buy SH. It looked like if USN wanted any new aircraft on its decks in the short to medium term, it was SH or nothing. So they got with the program. In that sense you are correct that USN realized SH was the [only] way to keep carrier aviation viable until the "real" future aircraft arrived. Unfortunately, the "real" future aircraft got canceled to preserve SH (bid in the hand and all that).

Regarding UCAVs and P-3, remember we're talking 1990-92 here. UCAVs weren't even a distant glow on the horizon and did not figure into this action in any way. P-3 is now being replaced by P-8 although that had to wait until the funding "bulge" for SH passed. Also, remember who was in charge for most of the '90s. New a/c development for all the services was "triangulated"in such a way that the big money wouldn't come due until after the 2000 elections.

As far as relative costs go, SH development would take longer and cost many times what development of F-14 Block IV would because it was a much more extensive exercise. At comparable production rates (always got to take that into account), F-14 Block IV would cost about $2 million more per a/c. Its costs to operate would unquestionably be higher than that of SH, but that's the old tradeoff of cost vs. capability vs. mission.


The envy about Rafale is what they got given that it was developed in roughly the same timeframe. In fact, had the French gov't not kept taking money from the program to spend on social welfare programs, Rafale would own the non-stealth fighter market today, because it could have been available way before Typhoon was. This is not to say USN would rather have bought Rafale.
:shock:

It's just given how well it flies and what it can do and how advanced and well integrated its systems are, it's an object of admiration (too bad about the itsy antenna, though).
Last edited by aaam on 21 Feb 2012, 02:31, edited 1 time in total.
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shingen

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Unread post20 Feb 2012, 04:08

Overall besides the radar, how are the Rafale avionics compared to the SH?
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Unread post20 Feb 2012, 08:57

There was plenty of skepticism that buying SH was going to save the USN a dime considering it was considered that Cheney was acting more as the spokesman for certain defense contractors than in any capacity as representative for the people.
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Unread post21 Feb 2012, 16:21

AAAM,

Thank you for sharing. I think it gets too easy for revisionist history and suppositions to perhaps cloud what really happened. It certainly would seem that NAVAIR didn't get many of the programs it was pushing for in the latter decade of the 20th Century (F-14D, A-6F, A-12, A/F-X) with the V-22 being the notable exception. With regard to the "Super" Tomcat, as far as avionics were concerned, would it has possessed AESA radar? I know that AIM-120 tests were done on an F-14, yet they never carried one operationally, would this have been rectified? There are a number of stores, Maverick, Harpoon, Harm, SLAM-ER, that The SH regularly carries that were not qualified on the F-14B/D as we knew them in service, was this in the cards for the future? I will say, that would have been quite the aircraft, especially if they could have found a way to shed a few pounds here and there, and perhaps increase the available thrust somewhat. I assume they would have retained the engine from the F-14D's that were indeed built.

The only real advantage I see the SH having in that scenario is obviously cost of operation, the Tomcat was far more maintenance intensive. In addition, the Legacy/Super mix in today's CVW's allows for parts commonality and savings in that vein. As far as capabilities are concerned, I don't really see the F-14D serving as a buddy tanker, or the EF-14E replacement for the EA-6B, but who knows what they would have come up with.


That being said, I think we could have done far worse than the Super Hornet; imagine if we had been left with simply acquiring more Legacy Hornets. But I sure do wish that the A-12 had gone into production as it was, odd looking or not, it would have added something to CVW's that they will lack in the post F-35 IOC as well.



HV
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Unread post22 Feb 2012, 03:53

HaveVoid wrote:AAAM,

Thank you for sharing. I think it gets too easy for revisionist history and suppositions to perhaps cloud what really happened. It certainly would seem that NAVAIR didn't get many of the programs it was pushing for in the latter decade of the 20th Century (F-14D, A-6F, A-12, A/F-X) with the V-22 being the notable exception. With regard to the "Super" Tomcat, as far as avionics were concerned, would it has possessed AESA radar? I know that AIM-120 tests were done on an F-14, yet they never carried one operationally, would this have been rectified? There are a number of stores, Maverick, Harpoon, Harm, SLAM-ER, that The SH regularly carries that were not qualified on the F-14B/D as we knew them in service, was this in the cards for the future? I will say, that would have been quite the aircraft, especially if they could have found a way to shed a few pounds here and there, and perhaps increase the available thrust somewhat. I assume they would have retained the engine from the F-14D's that were indeed built.

The only real advantage I see the SH having in that scenario is obviously cost of operation, the Tomcat was far more maintenance intensive. In addition, the Legacy/Super mix in today's CVW's allows for parts commonality and savings in that vein. As far as capabilities are concerned, I don't really see the F-14D serving as a buddy tanker, or the EF-14E replacement for the EA-6B, but who knows what they would have come up with.


That being said, I think we could have done far worse than the Super Hornet; imagine if we had been left with simply acquiring more Legacy Hornets. But I sure do wish that the A-12 had gone into production as it was, odd looking or not, it would have added something to CVW's that they will lack in the post F-35 IOC as well.



HV


To try and answer your questions...

A-6F died because it was too close in time to what was thought then was going to be the introduction of the A-12, which would have been a much better strike a/c (A-6F would be better at strike than SH, but nowhere near as good as a fighter, but then it wasn't supposed to be). A-12 died because it deserved to, wasn't that good an idea (almost no Fleet input) although the gov't deserves a lot of the blame for that debacle.

F-14D Block IV would probably not have an an AESA because the technology was too new (remember, SH didn't either) and like SH was supposed to be an "interim" a/c. It would have been be leaving service sometime around now as A/FX fully entered service earlier this decade--This is well behind when it was thought A/FX would have come online, but at the time they didn't realize what the '90s Administration was going to do to R&D.

AIM-120 was not used operationally because NAVAIR, now not wanting anything to compete with SH would not allow the deployment of LANTIRN on the Tomcat (which had been perfected on the Q.T. but a coalition of Navy operators, the contractor and some supportive AF personnel). Tomcat community, seeing that strike was going to be more important than air superior, offered to give up AIM-120 integration, which had already been funded, if they could use the money to buy and mount LANTIRNs.

Harpoon was scheduled for F-14 but was pulled off. SLAM-ER was too far in the future. Both would have been carried , along with a lot else, had Tomcat survived. Not too sure about Laser Maverick, that more properly belongs on an AV-8B.

If you're talking about Super Tomcat 21, I did an overly long post on it here:
http://www.f-16.net/f-16_forum_viewtopi ... rt-60.html. Super Tomcat 21 would not have been as good a thing for the Navy as A/FX, IMO, but if A/FX died anyway, it would be far better than what we have now. Regarding AESA, if it entered service almost certainly Super Tomcat 21 would gotten one by now. with a 40" dish and upwards of 20 Kw of power it would have been the longest ranged highest resolution AESA on a tactical aircraft. As far as tanking goes, anything can buddy refuel, what makes the SH somewhat better is it can tap its own fuel. It there was a Block IV F-14D or Super Tomcat 21, there would be no SH. What would have happened would be that either the S-3 would take on the role, or as they were replaced by A/FX or some Tomcat derivative, A-6Es would have been turned into tankers. KA-6Es could actually give away a lot more fuel than a SH can. Regarding EA-6B, it's not that well-known but when alternatives were looked at for replacing EA-6Bs, it was actually found by both Congress and DoD that restarting EA-6B production was actually cheaper than developing the EA-18G. but, given that SH was coming on anyway, the logistics advantages of leveraging the SH platform were obvious, So in our alternate scenario, you'd have seen EA-6Bs with upgraded avionics until replaced by an EA/FX or UCAV.

There isn't as much commonality between legacy and Super Bugs as you might believe. Although sometimes it was trumpeted as just an upgrade, when it was convenient to say so, in reality it's a new a/c. For example you can rebuild an AH-1W into an AH-1Z. You could rebuild an F-14A/B with sufficient airframe life into an F-14D, and you could rebuild an F-14D into a Super Tomcat 21. You can not rebuild a Hornet A/B/C/D into a E/F.
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Unread post22 Feb 2012, 03:58

As an aviation enthusiast of all kinds, I'm not that interested in the F/A-18 of any variant than I am of many other aircraft, speaking of the military types. However, when one's patrol is in a ditch with a couple of your mates in a bad way and need urgent medical attention & you're on the other end of the blower giving coordinates to a couple of SH Jocks so they can take out the 'Baddies', that all familiar SH shape is a welcoming sight.

Mind, being a Brit maybe its me being biased, but the familiar sights of the RAF's Tonkas & RAF/RN FAA's Harriers are quite something, especially when it comes to "A Show of Force", really do have to mind your head.
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Unread post08 May 2022, 21:56



10 Reasons I loved flying the Super Hornet
MAY 8, 2022

To be frank – if it’s good enough for Tom Cruise it’s probably good enough for me. We probably have to accept that a significant amount of allegiances to aircraft types are not rational or explicable. Most grew out of simply liking the aesthetics of a type, which is fair enough. But then again we should be able to explain why we love our aeroplanes, particularly one that I have publically stated is the best multi-role platform in the world. Wouldn’t it be nice, in a boring sort of way, if you were only allowed to like an aircraft based on how good it was compared to its peers? So I’ll have a go with the F/A-18E Super Hornet. It obviously has a slightly less cool ‘almost twin’ brother in that there is a twin-seat, or family, model knocking around. But I flew those on very few occasions. It has an even less cool but amazingly effective cousin in the EA-18G Growler and I didn’t fly them at all – but watching one have an inflight engagement with the USS George HW Bush and lose the subsequent tug of war with a Nimitz Class carrier was easily one of the opt ten coolest things I ever saw. We used to call the jet the Rhino. I’m not sure of the exact reason why but was told that it was because the ‘Ball Call’ needed only two syllables. It was my great privilege to join that bunch of warriors who have uttered ‘Rhino Ball’ at one point or another. Here are the top ten reasons that I loved flying the Super Hornet.




https://hushkit.net/2022/05/08/10-reaso ... er-hornet/

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Unread post08 May 2022, 22:49

http://aviationarchives.blogspot.com/20 ... t.html?m=1

80s super hornet proposal. Quite literally an enlarged hornet. I’m curious why the final super hornet is so different.
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Unread post08 May 2022, 23:17

The Super Hornet is a capable aircraft but frankly there's nothing it can do that the F-35C isn't better at.

I think the Super Hornet is almost like the legendary Grumman F6F Hellcat in that it's the right plane at the right time. It brings plenty of multirole versality when needed, and the mission systems have allowed it to be pretty decent at air-to-air as well and it's also quite cheap to operate.
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Unread post09 May 2022, 07:51

disconnectedradical wrote:The Super Hornet is a capable aircraft but frankly there's nothing it can do that the F-35C isn't better at.

I think the Super Hornet is almost like the legendary Grumman F6F Hellcat in that it's the right plane at the right time. It brings plenty of multirole versality when needed, and the mission systems have allowed it to be pretty decent at air-to-air as well and it's also quite cheap to operate.


I agree. Super Hornet is about 15 years older aircraft than F-35 and was designed with a compatively small budget with 4th gen technology, so it's not surprising that F-35C is significantly better.

It was definitely a good multi-role design at the time, although nothing like a generational leap that F-22 was. But unlike F-22, it was affordable for the USN and was (and still is) very capable multirole aircraft. Of course carrier capability and relatively low budget meant some compromises had to be made but I think those were made at the right places. SH or Classic Hornet are not the fastest or most powerful aircraft but they definitely have a lot of good qualities that make them highly capable aircraft. Those are very well highlighted by that article by Paul Tremelling in viperzerof-2 post. Hornet and Super Hornet are somewhat unassuming, "Sleeper" kind of aircraft. Both have done also very well in full competitions against other 4th gen aircraft of their era.
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Unread post09 May 2022, 12:48

The Super Hornet was always about retiring many older aircraft to cut down on the size of support crews. It did that under Hornet but that wasn't necessary continued with Super Hornet. The SH had less than promised sustainment rates more comparable to late F-14s after their honeymoon introduction. I'd of liked to see what a re-imagined cross between A-7 and F-8 (non-tilting main-wing of course) powered with an F100 powerplant and sporting F-16 derived electronics could have offered. Super Corsairs matched to F-14 Super Tomcat for the win.
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Unread post09 May 2022, 13:42

On one episode of the F-14 Tomcast they had a guest that flew Tomcats, Hornets, and Super Hornets. He described the Super as amazingly effective and incredibly deadly to anything that flies at it. That one statement captured the strengths and weaknesses too well. It's ability to find and destroy all types of targets is world class, second only to the F-35 in the former (a bit of hyperbole I admit) and unrivaled in the latter (widest variety or current munitions available). However, it lacks the speed to rapidly reposition or to chase down a threat.
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