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Thread: F/A-18 Super Hornet

  1. #346
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy View Post
    I'd argue a Strike Eagle variant is a better fit, but they'll never want to switch logistics for that.
    Agreed, the Silent Eagle for example would be almost perfect...but as you say, the logistics (and therefore cost) argue against it. A Super Hornet purchase would see a significant amount of savings and commonality.
    Quote Originally Posted by surfgun View Post
    An updated F-15 would be the superior choice, but how often does Canada go for the superior choice?
    Superior certainly, but affordable?
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

  2. #347
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    Quote Originally Posted by surfgun View Post
    An updated F-15 would be the superior choice, but how often does Canada go for the superior choice?
    This was actually discussed a little over a year ago in this very thread; I made the argument that the F-15SE would probably be a good fit for both Australia and Canada, but was given several reasons as to why that would probably never happen (no previous operational history with the F-15, logistics tail would be different than what is already established, RAAF has a lot of commonality with the USN so the Hornet/SH was a better fit, etc.). And, TBH, the F-15SE is probably "too much plane" for both Aust and Canada anyway, it's kind of overkill for the mission (although I'm sure both countries would appreciate having double the combat radius of the F-18E/F/G), plus the price tag on the F-18E/F/G is almost half that of a new-build F-15SE.
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

  3. #348
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    Oh I agree completely. It'll never happen for all those reasons.

  4. #349
    Senior Contributor surfgun's Avatar
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    Super Bugs are to get conformal fuel tanks.
    https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-...er-fuel-tanks/

  5. #350
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    Quote Originally Posted by surfgun View Post
    Super Bugs are to get conformal fuel tanks.
    https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-...er-fuel-tanks/
    and remote landing abilities.......

    'Like Playing a Video Game': Carrier Crew Flies Hornet Through Touch-and-Gos Remotely

    http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone...d-gos-remotely

    the flight deck crew of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier has remotely controlled an F/A-18 Hornet through a series of touch-and-gos at sea for the first time using a specialized system known as the Aircraft Terminal Approach Remote Inceptor, or ATARI. The service may eventually give all of its flattops this same capability, which would be invaluable in the event of an in-flight emergency or poor weather and could also serve as an alternate means of recovering unmanned aircraft in the future.

    In March 2018, the Landing Signal Officers on board the USS Abraham Lincoln used ATARI to maneuver a Hornet with a pilot inside from the “Salty Dogs” of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) through a standard recovery procedure. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) first began testing the system on land in 2016 using a modified Learjet, before installing the necessary equipment in some of VX-23's F/A-18s the following year.

    “The [sea state] conditions were really varsity [difficult], and it was really impressive the system worked the way it did. On a calm day, it would have been a little bit boring, but this was definitely more challenging,” U.S. Navy Lieutenant John Marino, a VX-23 pilot who flight tests systems for carrier suitability, said after the March 2018 event. “Back on the airfield, testing was benign.”

    Landing on board an aircraft carrier is demanding at the best of times and is a skill set that requires pilots train and re-qualify regularly to reduce the possibility of potentially deadly accidents. When the ship’s deck it pitching up and down several feet and rolling from side to side, possibly at night, it only requires more attention to detail.

    True to its acronym, the components of ATARI on the carrier consist of a joystick and other controls and monitors to observe the aircraft’s flight path. It’s not clear from the Navy’s description whether the system uses a line-of-sight link or leverages the longer range data links on the aircraft itself. We also don’t know whether or not it takes a video feed from cameras on the plane itself or uses sensors on the ship to determine the appropriate glidescope and lineup position, or both.

    Whatever the case, the aircraft is fully under the command of the Landing Signal Officer during the process. “You're effectively using little joystick controllers to guide a 40,000 pound airplane, and it's almost like you're playing a video game,” Buddy Denham, the NAVAIR engineer responsible for creating ATARI told the service’s reporters after the test flights.

    The Navy says that the system is not supposed to be a replacement for pilots landing manually, but rather as an emergency backup. During the test the deck crew waved off the pilot three times to ensure the conditions were safe enough for the Landing Signal Officer to take over.

    But given the inherently complicated nature of recovering aboard an aircraft carrier, having the system in place could be especially useful in a number of situations. Perhaps the most obvious scenario is a battle damaged single-seat fighter jet returning the carrier from a combat mission with a wounded pilot who may not be physically capable or even fully conscious enough to put the plane down on the deck. Ditching or ejecting into the water may not be an option either in that case, since the aviator might not be capable of employing their survival gear before rescue personnel can get to them. Being able to put the aircraft on the deck would be both safer and speed up the process of getting the individual potentially life-saving medical attention.


    Unfortunately, there are an increasing number of non-combat situations where a carrier might benefit from having ATARI on board. The Navy’s Hornet and Super Hornet fleets in particular, as well as the related EA-18G Growler community, have been experiencing high incidences of hypoxia-like symptoms for years and the service continues to struggle to find the root cause or causes.

    Hypoxia is a significant drop, or halt altogether, of oxygen reaching the brain, which can lead to headaches, confusion and disorientation, blackouts, and even death. A pilot suffering for any of this while operating from an airfield shore is bad enough, but would be made even more dangerous when combined with trying to land on board a moving aircraft carrier at sea.

    On top of that, these same types of aircraft have experienced a number of freak and potentially deadly accidents relating to their environmental control systems. In January 2018, the two-man crew of an EA-18G had to use their smart watches and the verbal guidance of personnel on the ground in order to make it back to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state after the cockpit temperature plunged to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, icing over their instruments and the insides of the canopy.

    ATARI would give the ship’s crew another way to intervene in these sorts of emergencies. The system could also be a boon on land, too, for the same reasons.

    It might also just help in instances of pilot fatigue. Along with ATARI, NAVAIR has been testing another system called Magic Carpet that helps reduce the workload on pilots landing on an aircraft carrier by suggesting appropriate course changes.


    Unfortunately, there are an increasing number of non-combat situations where a carrier might benefit from having ATARI on board. The Navy’s Hornet and Super Hornet fleets in particular, as well as the related EA-18G Growler community, have been experiencing high incidences of hypoxia-like symptoms for years and the service continues to struggle to find the root cause or causes.

    Hypoxia is a significant drop, or halt altogether, of oxygen reaching the brain, which can lead to headaches, confusion and disorientation, blackouts, and even death. A pilot suffering for any of this while operating from an airfield shore is bad enough, but would be made even more dangerous when combined with trying to land on board a moving aircraft carrier at sea.

    On top of that, these same types of aircraft have experienced a number of freak and potentially deadly accidents relating to their environmental control systems. In January 2018, the two-man crew of an EA-18G had to use their smart watches and the verbal guidance of personnel on the ground in order to make it back to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state after the cockpit temperature plunged to -30 degrees Fahrenheit, icing over their instruments and the insides of the canopy.

    ATARI would give the ship’s crew another way to intervene in these sorts of emergencies. The system could also be a boon on land, too, for the same reasons.

    It might also just help in instances of pilot fatigue. Along with ATARI, NAVAIR has been testing another system called Magic Carpet that helps reduce the workload on pilots landing on an aircraft carrier by suggesting appropriate course changes.

    As such the service hopes to begin replacing both ICLS and ACLS with improved and more accurate Joint Precision Approach & Landing Systems (JPALS), which uses GPS-enabled position information, starting in 2019. ATARI could still provide an important backup system for JPALS in the scenarios we've already noted.

    With the Navy planning to add MQ-25 Stingray tanker drones to its carrier air wings in the coming years, ATARI could take on an important role as part of the ship’s unmanned carrier aviation control architecture. From what we know now, each flattop will get a dedicated control suite and the pilotless aircraft themselves will be capable of semi-autonomous flight, including take-offs and landings.

    Without a pilot on board, if the ship loses control or the drone’s own flight computer malfunctions, ATARI would be another possible alternative means of regaining control and getting the unmanned aircraft back home in one piece. In that way, the system reflects the service’s need to adjust how it expects to operate if it wants to incorporate the MQ-25 or any other carrier-launched pilotless planes fully into the carrier air wing.

    "We don't have unmanned carrier-based vehicles in the fleet today, but they are coming soon,” Dan Shafer, a NAVAIR air vehicle engineer, said after the tests on Lincoln. “This is a potential alternative landing method and our [ATARI] system performed well.”

    Of course, ATARI won’t likely be a perfect remedy in any of these situations. In a real emergency, the Landing Signal Officers might not have the benefit of multiple passes before they can be confident in their ability to set the aircraft in question down safely or at least have it take the barrier. They might still call for a stricken pilot to ditch or eject for fear of causing a greater catastrophe on the flight deck.

    Depending on its configuration, failures in the command links between the system and the plane heading back to the carrier are a potential issue that could similarly render ATARI non-functional. In a crisis, satellite linkages are increasingly vulnerable to hostile interference, as well as enemy forces outright attacking space-based assets.

    But if ATARI doesn't rely on satellite links, it could be especially useful in a GPS-denied environment and might be the only option for getting drones that rely on satellite navigation back on the ship. It could also be an important substitute for the GPS-dependent JPALS, as well.

    VX-23 conducted the flight tests in March 2018 amid routine carrier qualifications on the ship and the data NAVAIR collected will go toward refining the system. At present, the Navy does not intend to install the ATARI control components on any other aircraft carriers beyond Lincoln.

    Still, more options are inherently better than not. With this successful experiment in hand, the Navy could one step closer to giving all of its aircraft carriers the ability to land returning aircraft by remote control.

    Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

  6. #351
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    Super Hornet upgrades add another boost at Boeing's North County plant

    On a Thursday morning this month, one of the Navy’s well-used F/A-18 Super Hornets was taxied onto Boeing’s north St. Louis County campus.

    It was the first of potentially hundreds of Super Hornets built there over the last 20 years that will return for upgrades designed to extend the life of the Navy’s workhorse fighter.

    Boeing won its first contract from the Navy at the end of February for a program meant to extend the flight hours of the aircraft carrier-based fighters from 6,000 to 9,000 hours.

    “You’ve got the whole population of Super Hornets that are out there that need to be extended from 6,000 to 9,000 hours,” Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president in charge of the F/A-18 and EA-18 Growler programs, said during a plant tour this month. “That’s a huge undertaking… That’s 40 or 50 airplanes a year that will need to come in and go out of the Service Life Modification program.”

    The program means more work at Boeing’s massive production facility next to St. Louis Lambert International Airport, where the company employs the bulk of its 14,000 regional workers.

    It’s not likely to mean a large boost in new jobs here. But it does mean the Super Hornet fighter assembly line, which only a few years ago many had expected to be winding down by now, has work to keep it busy well into the next decade.

    The first contract awarded by the Navy is worth $73 million, but Boeing says “additional follow-on contracts could be awarded over the next 10 years.” And the company is ramping up the retooling line like it expects the work to keep coming as the Navy refreshes its fleet of more than 560 Super Hornets to keep them flying as its front-line fighter into the 2040s.

    The first Super Hornets will take about 18 months to undergo the necessary upgrades, but Gillian said the company will refine the process and get the time it takes to upgrade them down to a year.

    The Service Life Program comes on top of a fresh round of Super Hornet orders from the Navy as well as international orders from countries such as Kuwait that Gillian expects to keep the plant busy building new planes into 2025.

    And by the next fiscal year, the company said the new Super Hornets it makes will be capable of 9,000 flight hours.

    The initial work on the Service Life Modification program will mostly be in St. Louis, with about a quarter of it performed in El Segundo, Calif., where Boeing subcontracts with Northrop Grumman for pieces of the Super Hornet before its final assembly in St. Louis, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

    Gillian said that as the program ramps up, over time it could result in an increase of “several hundred jobs” across the Super Hornet production line. That production infrastructure will include a line in San Antonio to help handle the expected influx of aging Super Hornets needing upgrades.

    But first, the work to fine-tune exactly what needs to be done on the jets will happen here.

    “St. Louis, we want to bring the hardest jets here,” Gillian said. “We have the engineering expertise having built the airplanes. We’ll bring them here, we’ll figure out the hard stuff, and then we’ll replicate at scale down in San Antonio.”

    The Navy’s push to extend the life of its Super Hornets comes after years of delays with the new stealthy F-35 joint strike fighter, which was meant to be used across military branches and is assembled by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas.

    The Navy has bought more Super Hornets to hedge against delays in the newer fighter program, meanwhile racking up more hours on the older jets. In addition, it’s been forced to use Super Hornets as refueling craft for other Super Hornets, part of the reason it’s now pushing for a new unmanned refueling drone as fast as possible. Boeing is in the running for that contract.

    With the Navy doubling down on the Super Hornet, the plane’s upgrades don’t stop at flight hours. By 2020, new Super Hornets will have new touch-screen cockpit computers for pilots, more advanced targeting and data systems and new fuel tanks to increase range.

    A few years ago, many feared the Super Hornet assembly line here would already be gone.

    And by 2022, Boeing expects to begin upgrading older Super Hornets with the newer systems in addition to re-engineering the airframes to give them more flight hours.

    The planned upgrades and new U.S. orders of Super Hornets could help Boeing market the fighters to more international customers, some of whom had been asking whether the production line would be around for much longer.

    “The Navy’s commitment gave us a pretty easy answer, a strong answer,” Gillian said. Link
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

  7. #352
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