Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet : Pulling Beyond Limit

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History
In 1980s, United States Navy Carrier Air Wing (CVW) was extremely capable. The F-14, F/A-18 and A-6 (and also EA-6B) combinations which built on the assumption of Soviet threats, had no blind spots. However the good old days were passing slowly. The massive cuts in defense budget due to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992 had a significant impact on the Navy.

At that time, the Navy had serious trouble in finding successor of aging A-6. The A-6F program was cancelled, and A-12 Avenger II was failed because of cost overruns. The last attempt, A/F-X which was planned to replace both F-14 and A-6, was also dropped. However the Navy still had some options, the JSF and new enlarged F/A-18.

Back in the late 1987, the McDonnell Douglas evaluated several ‘advanced’ F/A-18 concepts in Hornet 2000 study. Although there were differences between each design, they shared the common characteristics: enlarged wings, more powerful engines, more fuel. This concepts form the basis of new strike fighter, F/A-18E/F. Despite of some criticism (especially from F-14 supporters), there is no doubt that the E/F Hornet was most suitable and affordable near-term option for Navy.

The first flight of Super Hornet happened in November 29, 1995. It entered service in 1999, and achieved initial operating capability two years later. Even after introduction of F-35C, the Super Hornets are still remains the backbone of naval aviation. It is also nicknamed ‘Rhino’, which was inspired by protrusion on the front part of the aircraft’s nose.

As of 2023, The F/A-18E is the last U.S. military aircraft to shoot down enemy manned aircraft.

Design
Airframe, Engine
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The Super Hornet looks similar in overall to the legacy Hornet. Although it is often misunderstood as a modified or upgraded version of legacy Hornet, but the airframe itself is not directly related to it.


The Super Hornet is basically an enlarged and revised version of legacy Hornet. The airframe is could easily be distinguished by larger leading-edge-extensions (LEXs) and rectangular air intake. There are many internal differences, including larger fuel tanks for longer combat radius and endurance. The radar cross-section (RCS) was also greatly reduced, making it the least observable U.S. non-stealth fighter.

The safety limit for Super Hornet is -3.0 to +7.5 g, under 42,097 lb (19,094 kg) gross weight. At higher gross weight, the design limit is reduced to keep aircraft from exceeding structural limitations of the airframe. For example, safety limit is only -1.9 ~ 4.8 g at the maximum takeoff weight. However for emergency use, the pilot may utilize g-limiter override feature by pressing the paddle switch while stick is near the full aft limit. The override function allows up to 33% increase in the command g-limit, up to +10 g.


The engine is General Electric F414-GE-400, which provides uninstalled thrust up to 20,700 lb (97.4 kN). Though it is definitely more powerful than F404-GE-402, it could not fully compensate weight increases. As a result, Super Hornet is slightly slower than legacy Hornet in top speed and acceleration. But thanks to improved flight control systems and larger LEXs, its maneuverability is still magnificent.

Avionics

Specifications of AN/APG-65 radar (basis of AN/APG-73)

Antenna gimbal limit:

  • Azimuth: ±70°
  • Elevation: ±60°

Scale:

  • Range: 5/10/20/40/80/160 nm (9/19/37/74/150/300 km)
  • Azimuth: 20/45/90/140°

Elevation scan pattern: 1/2/4/6 bar
Beamwidth: 3.3°
Scan rate: 65°/s
Frequency: I band
Waveform: HPRF, MPRF, LPRF, Interleaved
A/A radar mode:

  • Range While Scan (SRC PD)
    - Range: ~80 nm (150 km)

    - Waveform: HPRF, MPRF, Interleaved

  • Velocity Search (SRC PDV HDN)
    - Range: ~100 nm (185 km)

    - Waveform: HPRF

  • Track While Scan (TWS PD)
    - Range: ~40 nm (74 km)

    - Max No. of target tracks: 10 (8 displayed)

    - Waveform: HPRF, MPRF, Interleaved

  • Single Target Track (TRK PD)
  • Boresight (ACM PD)
    - Range: 500 ft ~ 5 nm (0.15 ~ 9 km)

    - Scan area: 3.3° × 3.3°

  • Vertical Acquisition (ACM PD)
    - Range: 500 ft ~ 5 nm (0.15 ~ 9 km)

    - Scan area: ±5.3° in azimuth, -14° ~ +60° in elevation (10.6° × 74°)

(Raid Assessment and HUD Acquisition modes are excluded, because they are not necessary in game)

Early Super Hornets uses AN/APG-73 RUG II radar, the same one that fitted to the F/A-18C/D Lot 20. APG-73 is improved APG-65 with 7~20% more range, and better air-to-ground capabilities.

Data on AN/APG-79 radar


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Later in 2007, the AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is introduced. However it requires strengthened forward fuselage called ECP 6038, which is first applied on Lot 26 aircrafts. The Lot 26 and later Super Hornets with APG-79 are commonly referred as Block II. The APG-79 consists of 1,100 (or 1,363) T/R modules with a power of 21 KVA and cooling performance of 15.6 kW. It can track twice as many targets than APG-73, and able to perform scan with up to 2,800 radar beams per second.

Specifications of AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR

Weight: 420 lb (191 kg)
Resolution: 640 × 480 pixel
Field of view:

  • NFOV: 0.7°
  • MFOV: 2.8°
  • WFOV: 6.0°

For air-to-ground mission, Super Hornet could mount AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR on station 5. The AN/AAQ-28 LITENING was also tested for Super Hornet in 2022.

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JHMCS symbology for F/A-18 series aircraft

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Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) provides a collimated symbology/imaginary and FLIR/IRST pictures to pilot. It could also be used in conjunction with radar and AIM-9 missile for high off boresight target acquisition.

Armament, Countermeasures


F/A-18E/F loadout



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Super Hornet is a versatile strike fighter. Compared to legacy Hornet, Super Hornet has two additional hardpoint under wing. This new outboard pylon is a small but notable addition to strike capabilities, as it could handle even a 1,000 lb (453 kg) bomb. The MIL-STD-1760 data bus allows communications between the aircraft’s computers and targeting systems.

The only thing that was reduced from legacy Hornet is a ammunition capacity. legacy Hornet carried 578 rounds, but Super Hornet has only 412 rounds for its M61A2 gun.

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Similar to the late production legacy Hornets, Super Hornet is equipped with four AN/ALE-47 countermeasure dispensers that could hold 30 chaff or flares each.

data on ALE-50 and ALE-55

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In addition to these, there is a three AN/ALE-50 or AN/ALE-55 towed decoy under fuselage, directly behind centerline hardpoint. These expendable decoys are connected to the aircraft with fiber optics to provide continuous jamming while ‘following’ aircraft.

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data on TADIRCM pod

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F/A-18E in VX-23 once performed as a testbed for Tactical Aircraft Directed Infrared Countermeasures pod. TADIRCM was consisted with six 256 × 256 pixel FPA missile detector sensors and two Agile Eye II laser-based IR jammers, and could be mounted on station 2 (left wing outboard) of Super Hornet. The pod was actually functional and performed well during tests.

Specifications
Crew: 1
Length: 60.3 ft (18.38 m)
Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
Wingspan: 44.9 ft (13.68 m) w/ missiles
Wing area: 500 sq ft (46.45 m²)
Weights:

  • 31,500 lb (14,288 kg) empty
  • 66,000 lb (29,938 kg) maximum takeoff
  • 42,900 lb (19,459 kg) maximum carrier landing

Fuel (JP-8):

  • Internal: 14,480 lb (6,568 kg)
  • External: 9,590 lb (4,349 kg) with 3× FPU-12/A fuel tanks

Powerplant: 2× F414-GE-400

  • Uninstalled intermediate thrust: 11,000 lbf (61.8 kN)
  • Uninstalled maximum thrust: 20,700 lbf (92.1 kN)
  • Installed maximum thrust at sea level:
    • @ Mach 0.8: 22,299 lbf (99.1 kN)
    • @ Mach 0.9: 23,249 lbf (103.4 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.0: 23,158 lbf (103 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.2: 19,226 lbf (85.5 kN)
  • Installed maximum thrust at 5,000 ft (1.5 km):
    • @ Mach 0.8: 20,112 lbf (89.5 kN)
    • @ Mach 0.9: 20,622 lbf (91.7 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.0: 21,208 lbf (94.3 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.2: 20,576 lbf (91.5 kN)
  • Installed maximum thrust at 20,000 ft (6.1 km):
    • @ Mach 0.8: 13,475 lbf (59.9 kN)
    • @ Mach 0.9: 14,402 lbf (64.1 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.0: 15,339 lbf (68.2 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.2: 16,756 lbf (74.5 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.4: 17,426 lbf (77.5 kN)
  • Installed maximum thrust at 40,000 ft (12.2 km):
    • @ Mach 0.8: 5,681 lbf (26.1 kN)
    • @ Mach 0.9: 6,301 lbf (28 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.0: 6,983 lbf (31.1 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.2: 8,481 lbf (37.7 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.4: 10,048 lbf (44.7 kN)
    • @ Mach 1.6: 10,920 lbf (48.6 kN)

Performances:
(Note: ‘fighter escort configuration’ is 60% internal fuel, 2× AIM-9 Sidewinder, 2× AIM-120 AMRAAM)

  • Maximum speed (fighter escort configuration):
    • @ Sea level: Mach 1.01
    • @ 35,000 ft (10.6 km): Mach 1.6
  • Design limit speed (fighter escort configuration):
    • @ Sea level: Mach 1.1
    • @ 35,000 ft (10.6 km): Mach 2.0
  • Altitude: 53,000 ft (16,154 m)
  • Sustained turn rate (fighter escort configuration):
    • @ Sea level: 18°/s
    • @ 15,000 ft (4.5 km): 11.6°/s
  • Instantaneous bleed rate in a turn (fighter escort configuration):
    • @ Sea level: 65 kt (120 km/h) per second
    • @ 15,000 ft (4.5 km): 76 kt (140 km/h) per second
  • Acceleration time (fighter escort configuration):
    • @ 5,000 ft (1.5 km), from Mach 0.8-1.08: 52.8 seconds
    • @ 20,000 ft (6.1 km), from Mach 0.8-1.2: 50.3 seconds
    • @ 35,000 ft (10.6 km), from Mach 0.8-1.2: 64.85 seconds
  • Thrust-to-weight (fighter escort configuration):
    • @ Sea level, static: 0.845
    • @ 5,000 ft (1.5 km), Mach 0.9: 0.981
    • @ 20,000 ft (6.1 km), Mach 0.9: 0.685
    • @ 35,000 ft (10.6 km), Mach 0.9: 0.385
  • Specific excess power (1 g level flight, Mach 0.9, fighter escort configuration):
    • @ 10,000 ft (3 km): 663 ft/s (202 m/s)
    • @ 20,000 ft (6.1 km): 480 ft/s (146 m/s)
    • @ 35,000 ft (10.6 km: 234 ft/s (71 m/s)
  • Maximum command limit g: -3 ~ +10 g
  • Angle-of-attack limitations: None (in any symmetric configurations)
  • Pitch rate: in exceed of 50°/s
  • Takeoff distance at 48,942 lb (22,200 kg) gross weight: 1,443 ft (440 m)
  • Landing distance at 34,943 lb (15,850 kg) gross weight: 2,559 ft (780 m)
  • Approach speed: 125 kt (231 km/h)

Armaments:

  • Hardpoints: 11 total (2× wingtip, 6× under wing, 3× fuselage) for 17,747 lb (8,050 kg) of ordnances
  • Gun: 1× M61A2 20 mm gun (412 rounds)
  • Air-to-air missiles:
    • AIM-7M/P Sparrow
    • AIM-9L/M/X Sidewinder
    • AIM-120A/B/C/D AMRAAM
  • Air-to-surface missiles:
    • AGM-65E/F Maverick
    • AGM-84D Harpoon
    • AGM-84E SLAM
    • AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER
    • AGM-88A/B/C HARM
    • AGM-88E AARGM
    • AGM-158C LRASM
  • Guided bombs:
    • AGM-154C JSOW
    • GBU-10/12/16 Paveway II
    • GBU-24B/B Paveway III
    • GBU-31/32/38 JDAM
    • GBU-53/B Stormbreaker
    • GBU-54/B LJDAM
    • GBU-56(V)4/B LJDAM
  • Unguided bombs:
    • Mk 20 Rockeye cluster bombs
    • Mk 82/83/84 general-purpose bombs
    • Mk 82 Snakeye high-drag bombs
    • Mk 83 AIR high-drag bombs
  • Unguided rockets:
    • Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets
    • Zuni 5-inch rockets

Avionics:

  • Radar:

    • Hughes AN/APG-73 RUG II
    • Raytheon AN/APG-79 (since Lot 26)
  • RWR: AN/ALR-67(V)3

  • EO sensors:

    • AN/AAQ-28(V)4 LITENING AT (tested)
    • AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR
    • AN/ASD-12 SHARP
  • HMD: JHMCS

  • Night vision device: Vision Systems NVCD

Countermeasures:

  • Internal:

    • 4× AN/ALE-47 (120 total)
    • 3× AN/ALE-50 AAED or AN/ALE-55 FOTD
  • External: TADIRCM (tested)

Sources

2 Likes

+1

need this in game ASAP.

1 Like

I says again~

LETS GOOOO!!

A-7 light naval utility line lets do it!!!