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Thread: Radar Cross Section Reduction

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    Senior Contributor JA Boomer's Avatar
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    Radar Cross Section Reduction

    The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has a significantly reduced radar cross section compared to the F/A-18A-D Hornet even though it is a physically larger aircraft. The airframe design of the Super Hornet is based on that of the Hornet, it does have larger LERX and redesigned engine inlets, but other than that is largely similar to the Hornet. I know the box inlets help with RCS but since the airframe design is so similar, I'm wondering how the Super Hornet has such a dramatically lower RCS?

    I've read that it's because of how all of the joints and access panels are designed and manufactured on the Super Hornet. Does anyone know if this is true?

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    Notice the inlets: The angles are the same as the vertical stabilizers (notice the angles on the F-22 from head on ... what do you notice? )

    The same can be applied to joints etc.

    RCS head-on has three main factors:

    The radar dish
    The engine blades
    The cockpit

    The way you deal with those is ...
    1. An AESA radar which is tilted away from straight-ahead, or stow your antenna
    2. S-shaped ducts
    3. Put radar reflecting material on the canopy (notice the golden tint?)

    There are other factors as well, such as joints and various parts forming angles that can help creeping wave re-emission (I don't know exactly how that works) as well as right angles that will form some type of corner emitter etc. That part is taken care of by carefully aligning various joints and edges so minimize such effects.

    Quote Originally Posted by JA Boomer View Post
    The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has a significantly reduced radar cross section compared to the F/A-18A-D Hornet even though it is a physically larger aircraft. The airframe design of the Super Hornet is based on that of the Hornet, it does have larger LERX and redesigned engine inlets, but other than that is largely similar to the Hornet. I know the box inlets help with RCS but since the airframe design is so similar, I'm wondering how the Super Hornet has such a dramatically lower RCS?

    I've read that it's because of how all of the joints and access panels are designed and manufactured on the Super Hornet. Does anyone know if this is true?

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    Senior Contributor JA Boomer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGTharos View Post
    There are other factors as well, such as joints and various parts forming angles that can help creeping wave re-emission (I don't know exactly how that works) as well as right angles that will form some type of corner emitter etc. That part is taken care of by carefully aligning various joints and edges so minimize such effects.
    Ya, this is what I mean, the Super Hornet isn't physically a great deal different from the Hornet...so all of these minor things much contribute together to make a massive difference in the radar cross section.

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    They're not minor though

    Those three things I mentioned are the major RCS contributors in head-on situations!

    Quote Originally Posted by JA Boomer View Post
    Ya, this is what I mean, the Super Hornet isn't physically a great deal different from the Hornet...so all of these minor things much contribute together to make a massive difference in the radar cross section.

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    Senior Contributor JA Boomer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGTharos View Post
    They're not minor though

    Those three things I mentioned are the major RCS contributors in head-on situations!
    I only mean minor because you don't SEE them. The only RCS reducer that you can actually notice without close inspection on the Super Hornet is the redesigned inlets.

    Also, Super Hornets until recently did not have an AESA radar, and they would appear to have the same ducting as the Hornet (aside from the inlets). So my point is that it's all of these minute changes on the exterior of the airframe that must contribute to the lower RSC compared to the Hornet.

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    Oh, I see - agreed

    The radar dish counts as a big source of RCS, but only if its pointed right at you when you are scanning the bug - so with a Hornet radar in TWS, it probably doesn't doesn't increase RCS all that much on the average.

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    The SH has considerably more RAM as well as redesigned surfaces, to help in these reductions.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    I took a picture of the Super Hornet's inlet:

    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Senior Contributor JA Boomer's Avatar
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    So it seems that it is all of these minor design changes to the airframe that make a HUGE difference in RCS...on top of RAM coatings and such. It's too bad the Hornet was the only one of the teens' to get a major overhaul such as this...

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JA Boomer View Post
    So it seems that it is all of these minor design changes to the airframe that make a HUGE difference in RCS...on top of RAM coatings and such. It's too bad the Hornet was the only one of the teens' to get a major overhaul such as this...
    The airforce wanted to pour all its money into the F-22 program to come up with a true 5th gen fighter. The navy couldn't afford to wait that long so it came up with the Super Hornet program.

    I'm sure in the world of unlimited resources, the airforce would have had the Super Eagle and the Super Falcon programs, to go along with the Raptor and starting on the Super Raptor program. )
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    The airforce wanted to pour all its money into the F-22 program to come up with a true 5th gen fighter. The navy couldn't afford to wait that long so it came up with the Super Hornet program.

    I'm sure in the world of unlimited resources, the airforce would have had the Super Eagle and the Super Falcon programs, to go along with the Raptor and starting on the Super Raptor program. )
    Well there'll be 179 Golden Eagles w/ AESA, JHMCS, JTIDS, AIM-9X/AIM-120D, which shouldn't be too shabby.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrightwing View Post
    Well there'll be 179 Golden Eagles w/ AESA, JHMCS, JTIDS, AIM-9X/AIM-120D, which shouldn't be too shabby.
    And notice not one belongs to the USAF.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    And notice not one belongs to the USAF.
    I'm talking about the ones the USAF will be modifying, not the F-15K or SG.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrightwing View Post
    I'm talking about the ones the USAF will be modifying, not the F-15K or SG.
    Yeah but modifying existing airframes is not like going from the Hornet to Super Hornet. F-18E/F were new designs that looked like the old one to get funding. They were really the first 4.5 gen fighters in service.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Senior Contributor JA Boomer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrightwing View Post
    Well there'll be 179 Golden Eagles w/ AESA, JHMCS, JTIDS, AIM-9X/AIM-120D, which shouldn't be too shabby.
    These aircraft will be great planes, and they are basically upgrading these F-15C's to a F-15SG type capability. It's just too bad the Eagle couldn't have received a redesign to reduce it's radar cross section as that is the biggest knock against the Eagle these days. As the the Super Hornet is proof of, you don't need to redesign the airframe, you simply need to iron out the minor details. Would probably be fairly straightforward too, as a lot of the technology and experience used to develop the Super Hornet could have probably been adapted for the Eagle (or any other 4th gen I guess).

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