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Thread: F/A-18 Super Hornet

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    F/A-18 Super Hornet

    I have been reading some comments as of late about the F/A 18 SH and from the majority of opinions, it almost seems that the SH is considered "substandard" to the plane(s) it replaced, (F-14), to it's probable opponents.

    I am not a pilot, but this subject does interest me. How about some feedback?

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    Quote Originally Posted by shadow01 View Post
    I have been reading some comments as of late about the F/A 18 SH and from the majority of opinions, it almost seems that the SH is considered "substandard" to the plane(s) it replaced, (F-14), to it's probable opponents.

    I am not a pilot, but this subject does interest me. How about some feedback?
    "Substandard" in what way, and for which missions? Please elaborate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenix10 View Post
    "Substandard" in what way, and for which missions? Please elaborate.
    The F16 & the newer Soviet Fighters.

    I have always understood that do to the carrier take off and landings that Naval/Marine aircraft had to compromise in some areas to endure the stress, but how does that effect the performance to these other aircraft?

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    Quote Originally Posted by shadow01 View Post
    The F16 & the newer Soviet Fighters.

    I have always understood that do to the carrier take off and landings that Naval/Marine aircraft had to compromise in some areas to endure the stress, but how does that effect the performance to these other aircraft?
    Compromises for carrier operations include beefing up the structure to handle these stresses which can add weight to an airframe. Weight of course affects kinematics. It is true that the F-14 (maybe F-16) and newer Russian fighters hold a kinematic advantage over the Super Hornet (range, top speed, sustained supersonic rate of turn, etc). However kinematics are only 1 part of what makes a tactical aircraft effective. For example, fighter aircraft rarely operate at their top speed (acceleration is far more important than top speed). Remember that in modern warfare it is never as simple as F-18 versus Su-30 or F-18 versus F-14. Aircraft fight as part of a networked system and the F/A-18E/F is a FAR more effective platform than the F-14 or Su-30 series when considered in this regard.

    The Super Hornet has a reduced radar cross section and some of the best sensors and systems in the world (including advanced AESA radar, datalinks, ATFLIR/electro optical sensor, integrated threat detection, EA/EW, etc). When you combine this with the AIM-120 (especially the 120D), the Super Hornet, in my opinion, has a far better ability to shoot first than the F-14 or newer Russian fighters. The Super Hornet also has excellent low speed handling. When you combine this with the JHMCS, electro-optical sensors, and the AIM-9X you have a VERY potent WXR combination.

    The Super Hornet has better Situational Awareness, better ability to detect and engage on it's own terms, and better ability to share information with the integrated battle network. Also, unlike the F-14 (and many other fighters), the SH can perform almost every mission in the tactical aircraft spectrum - air superiority, SEAD, EA, fleet defense, ground attack, close air support, air refueling, battle field management, etc. There are few aircraft in the world that can do all of these things. On top of this the SH is far more maintainable than the F-14 (a large reason the F-14 was phased out).

    When you consider the way in which the F/A-18E/F is used, you will find that the Super Hornet is any thing but a "substandard" aircraft compared to others. It's all about CONOPS and how effectively an aircraft can perform to those CONOPS. Kinematics are very important, but that is only 1 part of the game.

    The strengths of the F-18E/F are very similar to the strengths of the latest Block F-16s.
    Last edited by Phoenix10; 02 Oct 10, at 18:44.
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    The Super Hornet has better Situational Awareness, better ability to detect and engage on it's own terms,
    Doubtful, at least not long term. The SH's sensor lead is rapidly running out as her competitors get better radars and their own RCS reduction technologies. She may already be out ranged in the missile envelope and she is not very agile compared to the latest flankers.

    while Russian systems can add better sensors as they come online, you can't make the SH faster. Despite all the technology, speed is still a critical factor in how well a fighter can fight. In 91, an older Hornet with better missiles, better radar, more pilot hours, and AWACS support was gunned down by an Iraqi foxbat whose pilot used his aircrafts strengths- speed and height to control the fight. Lt Cmdr Spiecher was unable to disengage. Also during ODS, Iraqi Mig-25's were able to use their speed and height to fight effectively against superior numbers of F-15's. In one engagement four F-15's fired 10 missiles at 2 Mig-25's and scored zero.

    The modern SU-27 is more than half a mach faster than the F/A-18 about the same edge enjoyed by the Foxbat over the F-15

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    Now that is what I call a complete answer! And I thank you for it.

    This is what I love about this forum excellent, informed discussion from people that have well founded opinions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    In one engagement four F-15's fired 10 missiles at 2 Mig-25's and scored zero.
    This is the area that i contended in another thread ie missile effectiveness. I did not know about the incedent you cited Z, it confirms some of my suspicions with missiles, thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zinja View Post
    This is the area that i contended in another thread ie missile effectiveness. I did not know about the incedent you cited Z, it confirms some of my suspicions with missiles, thanks.
    Missiles are not wonder weapons, I am sure that modern designs like the AIM-120 are better than older designs like the AIM-7, but a missile has only so much energy. In Vietnam, the early use of the Sparrow was so restricted (WVR only) that missile was fought outside its design envelope and only achieved a 10% hit rate.

    I doubt any modern missiles are really one shot, one kill systems. Although that is changing. The current trend is to develop higher energy rocket fuels and multi-pulse rocket motors. this way a missile can boost towards the target area at a higher rate of speed, then shut off until it enters the engagement zone where it refires to give the missile more energy.

    Seeker capability is also improving. Close range WVR fights using IR missiles are also getting deadlier. Flares as an effective counter are much less effective than they were. IR imaging means the missile won;t be drawn towards a flare. At best a multiple flare discharge may blind the missile and let the target break outside the missile seekers field of view.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Despite all the technology, speed is still a critical factor in how well a fighter can fight. In 91, an older Hornet with better missiles, better radar, more pilot hours, and AWACS support was gunned down by an Iraqi foxbat whose pilot used his aircrafts strengths- speed and height to control the fight. Lt Cmdr Spiecher was unable to disengage.
    that's why the F-14, combined with the AIM-54 Phoenix (atleast on paper) was such a superior aircraft, while the Foxbat was faster (by far) than the F-14, there's no way they can out run the Phoenix (Mach 5 missile with 100+ mile range) and one of the reasons why the long range capability of the F-14 was SO much better than anything else out there..

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Doubtful, at least not long term. The SH's sensor lead is rapidly running out as her competitors get better radars and their own RCS reduction technologies. She may already be out ranged in the missile envelope and she is not very agile compared to the latest flankers.

    while Russian systems can add better sensors as they come online, you can't make the SH faster. Despite all the technology, speed is still a critical factor in how well a fighter can fight. In 91, an older Hornet with better missiles, better radar, more pilot hours, and AWACS support was gunned down by an Iraqi foxbat whose pilot used his aircrafts strengths- speed and height to control the fight. Lt Cmdr Spiecher was unable to disengage. Also during ODS, Iraqi Mig-25's were able to use their speed and height to fight effectively against superior numbers of F-15's. In one engagement four F-15's fired 10 missiles at 2 Mig-25's and scored zero.

    The modern SU-27 is more than half a mach faster than the F/A-18 about the same edge enjoyed by the Foxbat over the F-15
    No one is talking long term. The discussion opened was about the SH and the plane that it replaced (F-14) and the current flanker series. Long term I agree with you, but that is a topic for another forum.

    You missed my point completely. Of course speed in very important. My point was that kinematics are not everything. The Foxbat had a higher speed than the F-15 but I don't think any informed person would consider the F-15 "substandard" to the Foxbat because of that (I am not saying that you were implying such, just making a point). The Su-30 may be half a mach faster but from what I have read, fighters like the F-15 (which is Mach 2+ capable), rarely break Mach 1.5 in operational service (if ever). Any pilot will tell you that acceleration is far more important than top speed. The ability to change your energy state quickly is what its all about.

    Again- my point is that a tactical aircraft and it's effectiveness MUST be considered in terms of the system in which it operates and the CONOPS with which it is employed. This is how things go in the 21st century. You can't say any aircraft is substandard to another just because it's has a kinematic disadvantage. The system in which the SH operates allows it to be more effective than the the F-14 in the system in which it operated. Times have changed, lessons have been learned, and the playbook has been updated. Modern air combat is not 2 sports cars racing to the finish. There is a reason they are called "tactical" aircraft.

    Also, why can't you make the SH faster? Engines are upgraded all the time. Sure, the angle of the leading edge of the SH wing limits the speed at which it can efficiently cruise but all things equal, higher thrust = higher speed. I don't need my aeronautical engineering degree to tell you that.

    Regards
    Last edited by Phoenix10; 03 Oct 10, at 08:12.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenix10 View Post
    No one is talking long term. The discussion opened was about the SH and the plane that it replaced (F-14) and the current flanker series. Long term I agree with you, but that is a topic for another forum.
    The problem is long term is not 20 years, but more likely 5. The most capable flankers already outclass the superbug in many areas.

    You missed my point completely. Of course speed in very important. My point was that kinematics are not everything. The Foxbat had a higher speed than the F-15 but I don't think any informed person would consider the F-15 "substandard" to the Foxbat because of that (I am not saying that you were implying such, just making a point). The Su-30 may be half a mach faster but from what I have read, fighters like the F-15 (which is Mach 2+ capable), rarely break Mach 1.5 in operational service (if ever). Any pilot will tell you that acceleration is far more important than top speed. The ability to change your energy state quickly is what its all about.
    raw acceleration is hard to pin down, using rate of climb for both the SU-27 and F/A-18E/F as a stand in reveals the following...

    SU-27 300m/s
    F/A-18E/F 254m/s

    Again- my point is that a tactical aircraft and it's effectiveness MUST be considered in terms of the system in which it operates and the CONOPS with which it is employed. This is how things go in the 21st century. You can't say any aircraft is substandard to another just because it's has a kinematic disadvantage. The system in which the SH operates allows it to be more effective than the the F-14 in the system in which it operated.
    Not in all areas it isn't, the F-14D was half a mach faster for example and at the time of its retirement had a better ability to go after bombers and enemy hi-val targets like awacs platforms. As AWACs systems continue to spread across the globe, that half mach is going to be critical. Most of the flying radars fly at high subsonic speeds and can see a very long way. Popping them means getting a firing platform close enough fast enough to allow a missile to reliably hit the target. The AIM-54 could do this, as there is little difference between the F-14's designed bomber targets, and an AWACS as far as speed and agility is concerned.

    Also, one of the most critical, if not the most critical role for a fleet superiority fighters is interception of inbound bomber threats. The faster fighter can also get farther from the carrier when an airborne threat is detected and hopefully engage it, before the threat can engage the carrier in turn.

    Times have changed, lessons have been learned, and the playbook has been updated. Modern air combat is not 2 sports cars racing to the finish. There is a reason they are called "tactical" aircraft.
    Times have changed, weapons now have longer ranges and are harder to avoid. Thus the more energy a fighter can enter the fight with, or use to get to the fight the better. In the case of a naval fighter, range+speed are as critical as sensors+weapon.

    Also, why can't you make the SH faster? Engines are upgraded all the time. Sure, the angle of the leading edge of the SH wing limits the speed at which it can efficiently cruise but all things equal, higher thrust = higher speed. I don't need my aeronautical engineering degree to tell you that.
    The law of diminishing returns, unless there was a redesign of the aircraft's profile, more power will not add a 1:1 improvement in speed and will probably prove to be a negative factor on range. More powerful engines likely will only result in a bigger payload, which in the context of A2A means little.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    The problem is long term is not 20 years, but more likely 5. The most capable flankers already outclass the superbug in many areas.



    raw acceleration is hard to pin down, using rate of climb for both the SU-27 and F/A-18E/F as a stand in reveals the following...

    SU-27 300m/s
    F/A-18E/F 254m/s



    Not in all areas it isn't, the F-14D was half a mach faster for example and at the time of its retirement had a better ability to go after bombers and enemy hi-val targets like awacs platforms. As AWACs systems continue to spread across the globe, that half mach is going to be critical. Most of the flying radars fly at high subsonic speeds and can see a very long way. Popping them means getting a firing platform close enough fast enough to allow a missile to reliably hit the target. The AIM-54 could do this, as there is little difference between the F-14's designed bomber targets, and an AWACS as far as speed and agility is concerned.

    Also, one of the most critical, if not the most critical role for a fleet superiority fighters is interception of inbound bomber threats. The faster fighter can also get farther from the carrier when an airborne threat is detected and hopefully engage it, before the threat can engage the carrier in turn.



    Times have changed, weapons now have longer ranges and are harder to avoid. Thus the more energy a fighter can enter the fight with, or use to get to the fight the better. In the case of a naval fighter, range+speed are as critical as sensors+weapon.



    The law of diminishing returns, unless there was a redesign of the aircraft's profile, more power will not add a 1:1 improvement in speed and will probably prove to be a negative factor on range. More powerful engines likely will only result in a bigger payload, which in the context of A2A means little.
    You make very good points and I tend to agree with you. However, everything you have stated is based on Air-to-Air. When did this become a discussion about A2A only? The original statement was:

    "I have been reading some comments as of late about the F/A 18 SH and from the majority of opinions, it almost seems that the SH is considered "substandard" to the plane(s) it replaced, (F-14), to it's probable opponents." - I hear no reference to A2A here, just that it is "substandard" and this is what I am challenging.

    The only point I was trying to make is that the while the SH may lack in kinematics compared to other platforms, as a tactical aircraft "system" it is far from "substandard". If you consider the broad range of missions flowing by carrier based aircraft, the SH can do many of them better than an F-14 and even the current flankers.

    Your acceleration calculation doesn't hold much weight unless you state a reference or how you got to those numbers. If you did the math, you need to include more information. What was the fuel load? What was the payload (parasite drag)? What was the altitude? There are a lot of things to consider and assumptions to make (and information not known). No disrespect intended!

    I hope we never see the day, but if the USN ever takes a carrier into the Taiwan Strait (or another region with flankers), my prediction is that the SH will be able to do more than hold its own because of the way that it is used against a wide range of threats. Assuming and A/C is "substandard" based only on a spec sheet is a little short-sighted. Do I think the SH is a step backwards based on kinematics alone? Most definitely! Do I think it is a "substandard" tactical aircraft? No way!

    I appreciate the good discussion!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phoenix10 View Post
    You make very good points and I tend to agree with you. However, everything you have stated is based on Air-to-Air. When did this become a discussion about A2A only? The original statement was:

    "I have been reading some comments as of late about the F/A 18 SH and from the majority of opinions, it almost seems that the SH is considered "substandard" to the plane(s) it replaced, (F-14), to it's probable opponents." - I hear no reference to A2A here, just that it is "substandard" and this is what I am challenging.
    The F/A-18 Super Hornet repalced the F-14 , although the F/A-18 is a fighterbmber, the plane it repalced spent almsot its interior life as a dedicated fighter. That means A2A.

    The only point I was trying to make is that the while the SH may lack in kinematics compared to other platforms, as a tactical aircraft "system" it is far from "substandard". If you consider the broad range of missions flowing by carrier based aircraft, the SH can do many of them better than an F-14 and even the current flankers.
    many... maybe, but can it defend the carrier effectively?

    Your acceleration calculation doesn't hold much weight unless you state a reference or how you got to those numbers. If you did the math, you need to include more information. What was the fuel load? What was the payload (parasite drag)? What was the altitude? There are a lot of things to consider and assumptions to make (and information not known). No disrespect intended!
    google-fu

    I hope we never see the day, but if the USN ever takes a carrier into the Taiwan Strait (or another region with flankers), my prediction is that the SH will be able to do more than hold its own because of the way that it is used against a wide range of threats. Assuming and A/C is "substandard" based only on a spec sheet is a little short-sighted. Do I think the SH is a step backwards based on kinematics alone? Most definitely! Do I think it is a "substandard" tactical aircraft? No way!
    Hoperfully we never find

    I appreciate the good discussion!
    as do I

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    Here is an interesting article supporting the RAAF decision to buy the Super Hornet. Call it a response to the "scenarios" presented over at APA. I do not agree with everything in here but since we are on the topic of the SH in A2A combat, this might spur more great discussion. I apologize, I can't seem to find the original link to the interview but this is the gist of it.

    Ozzy Blizzard's Australian Defence Times: Search results for F-18 Su-30

    "I just thought I'd address a few points of fact, implications or analysis presented in the programme that I thought was factually wrong, misleading or just plain stupid. This is a statement mad by Wing Commaneder Chriss Mills when refering to the SU-30 "It's a formidable weapon, it can fly higher, faster,.... its got better weapons". In a point of fact that statement is simply false. The Su-30's weapons package is distinctly inferior to the Super Hornet's, in fact even our legacy hornet fleet. The Flankers strike weapons are a generation behind the Hornets, relying on the KAB 500/1500L family of laser guided bombs, KH 29 "Kedge" laser guided missile and KH 59 TV guided missile. All of these systems are of the same technological generation as the F-111C's Paveway/Pave Tack combination. They are simply outclassed by the J series PGM's utilized by the hornet family, which provide an unmatched all weather, fire and forget stand off capability. The only strike weapon used by the Flanker which is even competitive is the KH 31 Krypton anti-ship/anti-radiation missile, with over 100km maximum range, it is a very capable ARM. Its range and kinematics are slightly better than the AGM 88 HARM anti radiation missile although is apparently less capable in terms of ECCM. As for the air to air stuff the situation is the same. The Flankers WVR missile is the R73, which is outclassed kinematically, aerodynamically, in seeker performance, off-broadsight capability, range and IRCCM by the AIM 9X which was specifically designed to outperform the R73. The primary BVRAAM is the R77, which again is completely outclassed by the AIM 120D. AIM 120D is a better performer in terms of range (>180km compared to >90km), ECCM, has a more capable 2 way datalink and better seeker performance. As you can see Super Hornet clearly has a superior weapons package.

    Four Corners "asked" Air Vise Marshal Criss and Wing Commander Mills to do a "hypothetical" simulation of an air strike on Indonesia by a squadron of F/A-18F's in 2012. i can say without hyperbole that this was one of the most ridiculous and unrealistic simulations i have ever seen. Where was JORN or Wedgetail and the information dominance these systems provide? Who in their right mind would use strike profiles designed for a pig, i.e. a low and fast sprint to get to weapons release point when you have a HUGE EW advantage to exploit? There was only one outcome that was going to come out of that "hypothetical" but thank god these men are no longer in running strike missions for the RAAF. Lets look at a more realistic scenario with similar assets: 16 SU 30's are on CAP (combat air patrol) above Java in 4 packets of 4. All of these platforms are tracked by JORN as soon as they took off. A squadron sized package of 16 Super Bug's takes off from RAAF Tindell or RAAF Learmouth for their targets, 4 with a mixed JSOW AAW load and 8 with a full AAW load. They are preceded by a Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft (escorted) and 2 A330 tankers. The Wedgetail sets up shop several hundred kilometers out into the Indian ocean, its radar footprint extending throughout the battlespace, which remains undetected due to the MESA's LPI capability (and the fact that it remains outside of the Flankers/ground based radars detection radii). The 8 AAW equipped super bugs move towards their individual flanker flights as they turn to the north in their orbits, allowing them to stay out of the flankers radar footprint. The pairs of Super Bug's make super sonic runs toward their targets while staying emissions cold, all target information being provided by the Wedgetail via Link 16. When the Bugs reach ~150km from the Flankers they launch missiles, 2 at each Flanker, still emitions cold. At this point the Indonesians may still be unaware they are even being attacked, while there are missiles in the air. As the AMRAAM's leave their hardpoints the flankers are hit with an electronic attack, disrupting their datalinks and severely reducing their radar performance (the SH's EA capability is claimed to be effective in the 150km+ range bracket). While the Indonesian pilots are still trying to figure out why they cant contact command & controll their RWR's light up as the AMRAAM's start pinging. At this stage (within the NEZ and with ample energy) the AIM 120D's kill probability is 90%+, with 2 inbound the chances of survival are minimal. ALL 16 FLANKERS ARE SHOT DOWN. Strike designated bugs move in to weapons release range and hit 16 individual targets throughout centrell Java with JSOW C's. Sound too easy? RAAF picks when to fight and how to fight because it see's the enemy, in addition to effectively blinding him. That is an advantage that no realistic ammount of raw performance will change. That is what information dominance allows you to achieve, and when you bring the ADF's actuall capabilities into the simulation, information dominance is virtually guarenteed."
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    That article has one major flaw, the RAAF does not have the 120D

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