Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

TypeCarrier-based multirole fighter
Country of originUnited States
ManufacturerMcDonnell Douglas
Boeing Defense, Space & Security
First flight29 November 1995
Introduced1999
Produced1995–present
Numbers built500 as of April 2011
Unit costsUS$55 million (2011 flyaway cost)
Max speedMach 1.8+ (1,190 mph, 1,900 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m)
Max rangeRange: 1,275 nmi (2,346 km) clean plus two AIM-9s[13]
Combat radius: 390 nmi (449 mi, 722 km) for interdiction mission
Ferry range: 1,800 nmi (2,070 mi, 3,330 km)
Service ceiling: 50,000+ ft (15,000+ m)
DimensionsLength: 60 ft 1¼ in (18.31 m)
Wingspan: 44 ft 8½ in (13.62 m)
Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
Wing area: 500 ft² (46.5 m²)
WeightEmpty weight: 32,081 lb (14,552 kg)
Loaded weight: 47,000 lb (21,320 kg) (in fighter configuration)
Max takeoff weight: 66,000 lb (29,937 kg)
Powerplant2 x General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans
ArmamentGuns: 1x 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan nose mounted gatling gun, 578 rounds

Hardpoints: 11 total: 2x wingtips, 6x under-wing, and 3x under-fuselage with a capacity of 17,750 lb (8,050 kg) external fuel and ordnance

Missiles:
Air-to-air missiles:
4x AIM-9 Sidewinder or 4x AIM-120 AMRAAM, and
2x AIM-7 Sparrow or additional 2x AIM-120 AMRAAM
Air-to-surface missiles:
AGM-65 Maverick
Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM-ER)
AGM-88 HARM Anti-radiation missile
AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW)
Anti-ship missile:
AGM-84 Harpoon

Bombs:
JDAM Precision-guided munition (PGMs)
Paveway series of Laser guided bombs
Mk 80 series of unguided iron bombs
CBU-87 cluster
CBU-78 Gator
CBU-97
Mk 20 Rockeye II

Others:
SUU-42A/A Flares/Infrared decoys dispenser pod and chaff pod or
Electronic countermeasures (ECM) pod or
AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR Targeting pods or
up to 3x 330 US gallon (1,200 L) Sargent Fletcher drop tanks for ferry flight or extended range/loitering time or
1x 330 US gal (1,200 L) tank and 4x 480 US gal (1,800 L) tanks for aerial refueling system (ARS).
OperatorsAustralia, United States

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is the latest generation of F/A-18 Hornet family. The aircraft was developed after the United States Navy project to have a reliable ground-attack with the A-12 Avenger II was forced to be canceled. The program was planned to replace the Grumman A-6 Intruders which began to wear out. As an alternative, the Navy chose to enhance the capabilities of other aircrafts that have been operated, the F/A-18C and D Hornet.

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a multirole fighter that operated from aircraft carriers. The Super Hornet variant is larger and equipped with more sophisticated components of C and D variants. This aircraft flew for the first time in 1995 and began entering production in September 1997 then start joining the fleet of U.S. Navy fighters in 1999 and replaced the Grumman F-14 Tomcat since 2006.

In addition to the U.S. Navy, since December 2010 the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) began operating the F/A-18F to replace its obsolete F-111s.

The Development of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

In the early 1980s, the concept of the Super Hornet was marketed by McDonnell Douglas. However, it was called the Hornet 2000, a more sophisticated variant of the F/A-18 with a larger wing and longer fuselage that could carry more fuel and is boosted by a more powerful engine.

At the same time, the Navy was facing a problem with the cancellation of the program McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II, while the threat of the Cold War continued to expand. Luckily, McDonnell Douglas took the initiative to develop the Super Hornet that has the basic design of an aircraft that have been successfully operated. The measure of course could cut the cost of aircraft development programs compared to the development of a brand new aircraft, especially when the Navy also was looking for a replacement of naval version of the F-22 Raptor program proposals which was eventually canceled.

Finally in 1992, the Navy ordered the Super Hornet because it also planned to retire its fleet of F-14 Tomcat. In November 1995 the first Super Hornet had its maiden flight and in the same year the production of the Super Hornet commenced. But the full production began in September 1997 after a series of flight tests and carrier landing until the final use of the Super Hornet was fully approved in February 2000.

Apparently the role of the Super Hornet eventually not only replaces the task performed by the A-6 Intruder, but also other Navy aircrafts such as the F-14, A-6 Intruder, Lockheed S-3 Viking, and KA-6D. Even its electronic warfare version, the EA-18G Growler, also has a task of replacing the EA-6B Prowler which was starting to become obsolete. Another positive impact achieved by the Navy is the reduction of naval fleet operating costs by $1 billion annually. This happens because the Super Hornet subtitutes the role of some previous generation aircrafts which were part of naval combat fleet.

The Design of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

Super Hornet, which also called Rhino, features a very similar design to the previous Hornet variants. Their flying characteristics are similar. Avionics, ejection seats, radar, armament, mission computer software, and maintenance/operating procedures, almost all are designed from the old version of Hornet.

The difference is the size where Super Hornet is 20 percent larger which enables the aircraft to carry 33 percent more internal fuel to eventually increase the mission range 41 percent further  and  it also has 51 percent greater endurance. Wing area is also 25 percent greater and the General Electric F414 engines generate 35 percent bigger thrust.

From the looks, the most obvious difference is the shape of air intake. Hornet features an oval-shaped air intake while the Super Hornet using a rectangular-shape intake.

Another thing that distinguishes the Super Hornet is the ability to reduce radar signature. It is derived from a combination of stealth, advanced electronic-warfare capabilities, reduced ballistic vulnerability, the use of standoff weapons, and innovative tactics such as different inlet design to reduce the frontal radar cross section.

F/A-18E/F Super Hornet videos

US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet Demo – End Of Runway

F/A-18 Super Hornet Sorties – USS Enterprise (CVN 65)

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