Boeing F/A-18 Hornet
From Scramble - The Aviation Magazine
|Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18C Hornet|
|Entered Service||January 7th, 1983|
|Number built||In production|
|Length||17.1 m||56 ft|
|Wingspan||12.2 m||40 ft|
|Height||4.7 m||15 ft 4 in|
|Wing area||38 m²||400 ft²|
|Empty||11,200 kg||24,700 lb|
|Maximum takeoff weight||23,400 kg||51,550 lb|
|Capacity||up to 6,215 kg (13,700 lbs) weapons|
|Engines||two General Electric F404-GE-400|
|Thrust||48,9 kN (each)||11,000 lbf (each)|
|Maximum speed||Mach 1.8|
|Operational range (hi-lo-hi)||537 km||290 nmiles|
|Service ceiling||15,000 m||50,000 ft|
|Rate of climb||254 m/min||50,000 ft/min|
|Avionics||Raytheon AN/APG-73 radar|
|Armament||One M61 20 mm gun; air-to-air weapon option include AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM; air-to-ground weapon options include Paveway, JDAM, AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-154 JSOW, AGM-158 JASSW and B61 nuclear weapon.|
The F/A-18 Hornet is derived from the P-600, originally developed for the US Air Force Light Weight Fighter Program as Northrop YF-17. Having lost the LWFP to General Dynamics with its YF-16, Northrop licensed McDonnell Douglas to develop Model 267 carrier-borne fighter/bomber for the US Navy and US Marine Corps, replacing the remaining F-4J/N/S Phantom IIs and A-7E Corsair IIs.
Initial model, equipped with F404-GE-400 turbofan engines, (then) Hughes AN/APG-65 radar, AN/AAS-38 FLIR and AN/ASQ-173 laser spot tracker. Originally two versions were proposed: the A-18 attack model and the F-18 fighter model. By using multi-function avionics, it became possible to combine both roles and the models were re-designated F/A-18. Initially known as TF-18A, the dual seat trainer was redesignated F/A-18B. Export models include (A)F/A-18A/B for Australia, CF/A-188A/B or CF-18A/B for Canada and EF-18A/B for Spain (local designation C.15). The latter aircraft were upgraded to EF-18A/B+ also known as EF-18M).
Upgraded model with improved avionics and armament, including new AN/APG-73 radar, AGM-65D IIR Maverick and AIM-120 AMRAAM. Since 1993, the AN/AAS-38A Nite Hawk added a designator/ranger laser, allowing it to self-mark targets. The later AN/AAS-38B Nite Hawk added the ability to strike targets designated by lasers from other aircraft. Export models include KAF-18C/D for Kuwait. Designation F/A-18D (RC) is used for 48 F/A-18D models with the M61 gun replaced by the ATARS recce system (daylight and IR-sensors) and Loral AN/UPD-8 SLAR pod.
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Second generation Hornet, with new, 25% larger airframe and more powerful General Electric F414 engines (based on the F404) and lightweight M61A2 gun. The Super Hornet, unlike the previous Hornet, can be equipped with an aerial refueling system (ARS) for the refuelling of other aircraft. From Lot 26 (introduced 2005), production switched to Block II standard, including the AN/APG-79 AESA radar, Advanced Crew Station, 8x10 inch cockpit displays and other improvements. These upgrades enabled the F/A-18F to engage two separate targets (aerials and/or ground targets) at the same time. Also the improved AN/ALQ-214 jammer was added. This system, jointly developed by BAE Systems and ITT, consists of on-board systems (ITT) and an off-board fiber optic towed decoy known as AN/ALE-55 (BAE Systems). The AN/ALE-55 will be introduced in Block III aircraft. With this combination, the AN/ALQ-214 will generate an optimal signal to counter the incoming threat, to be transmitted by the AN/ALE-55 towed decoy. In April 2008, Boeing a the F/A-18IN derative to India to fulfil its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition. In August 2011, the US Navy has awarded Boeing a contract to develop an infrared search and tracker (IRST) to integrate in the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet. The four-year development programme will adapt the Lockheed Martin AN/AAS-42 IRST to mount in the forward section of the F/A-18E/F's centreline fuel tank. The AN/AAS-42 was last operated on board the F-14D Tomcat. By 2011, the US Navy had increased its intended F/A-18E/F buy from 493 to 550 aircraft, mainly driven by F-35C development delays.
Electronic Attack variant, derived from F/A-18D and due to replace the Grumman EA-6B Prowler. Main specialized equipment include AN/ALQ-218 wideband receivers on the wingtips and AN/ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System. The M61 Vulcan gun has been removed, but AIM-9 Sidewinders and AIM-120 AMRAAMs are retained. The first test aircraft, known as EA-1 made its initial flight in St. Louis on August 15th, 2006 and the 1st Growler for the US Navy was delivered to VAQ-129 on 4 June, 2008. The NEA-18G designation is used for two F/A-18F airframes (F134 and F135), which were heavily modified as prototypes for the EA-18G Growler. In August 2012, Australia announced it will convert 12 of its 24 F/A-18F fighters to EA-18G, half of which were pre-wired to accept the Growler configuration.
Software Configuration Sets
The 21X build is the SCS for the legacy Super Hornets and other F-18 aircraft that do not have advanced mission computers and was intended to add capabilities common to those aircraft with the advanced mission computer/higher-order language software (e.g., H3E and higher).
H3E is the first higher-order language software for advanced mission computers.
This software set introduced AN/APG-79 AESA radar and initial JHMCS capability. Significant deficiencies remain in radar performance, especially in short range dogfight engagements. Also, several suitability deficiencies remain, including continued poor reliability, poor built-in test performance, and a system anomaly that could mask an overheat condition.
Current (mid 2010) software configuration for US Navy Block 32 F/A-18E/F, introducing JMPS, M1DS-Joint Tactical Radio System, Joint Stand-off Weapon C-1, Stand-off Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER), and the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System —Night Vision Cueing Device (JHMCS-NVCD). H5E JHMCS display upgrades provided notable improvements and over 120 previous anomalies were corrected from the H4E software set. Problems remain in the air warfare capability for both AN/APG-79 AESA and AN/APG-73 radar systems including Electronic Warfare threshold shortfalls that increase the susceptibility of the aircraft.
Development of the full electronic warfare capability of the radar continues to be deferred to later software builds; SCS H6E and H8E are currently planned to implement these capabilities.
In 2007, Switzerland ordered the F/A-18C/D Upgrade 25 to enhance survivability and communications connectivity and to extend the useful life of 33 Swiss Air Force F/A-18C/D aircraft. The first phase of the F/A-18C/D "Upgrade 25 Program" will include AN/ASQ-228A(V) Advanced Tactical Forward Looking Infrared Radar (ATFLIR) Pods, AN/ALR-67(V)3 Electronic Warfare Countermeasures Receiving Sets. The upgrade also includes improvements to the cockpit display systems, image, capture, handling, transmit, and receipt capability, GPS, and voice/data/video recording. Aircraft modifications will include integration of the AN/AAQ-28 Litening targeting pod.
Incremental Modernization Program
Canadian aircraft will be upgraded in the CF-188 IMP (Incremental Modernization Program). First stage op this upgrade, based on Boeing's ECP583, is Phase I (integrating BAE Systems AN/APX-111 interrogator/transponder, Rockwell/Collins AN/ARC-210 VHF/UHF radio's (finally solving interoperability problems encountered as early as the 1991 Gulf War), AN/AYK-14 XN-8 mission computer, a new AN/AYQ-9 stores management system (based on Mil-Std-1760 electrical and digital weapon interface, allowing integration of new weapons such as AIM-120 AMRAAM). Second stage is Phase II (data link, helmet-mounted sight, new colour displays, new chaff/flare dispenser system). Phase II modified aircraft are designated F/A-18A/B R2.
Australian Hornets have been involved in a number of major upgrade programs. This program called HUG (Hornet Upgrade) has had a few evolutions over the years. Phase I started April 2000 and Phase II (contracted 2006) introduced new avionics, radar, radio's and AIM-120 AMRAAM integration. The 79th and final HUG upgraded Hornet was delivered 17 March 2010.
HUG2.2 introduced colour cockpit displays, JHMCS, Link 16 data link and new chaff/flare dispensers.
This standard introduced the AN/AAQ-28 Litening targeting pod.
HUG 3.1 and 3.2 included some structural improvements and replacement of the centre barrel fuselage section of 11 airframes.
The NASA Dryden Flight Research Center used an F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft as its Systems Research Aircraft (SRA). The aircraft was on loan from the U.S. Navy. The Systems Research Aircraft (SRA) was a dual-purpose facility benefitting commercial and military developments. Key technologies investigated aboard the F-18 SRA included advanced power-by-wire concepts, electric-powered actuators and mechanical systems, fly-by-light (fiber optic cable) systems and advanced computer architectures. Future aircraft that might benefit are civil transports, next-generation general aviation and military aircraft. In addition, the program developed advanced flight-test techniques.
The F-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle was used to validate computer codes and wind tunnel research about airflow phenomena at high angles of attack and is expected to lead to better manoeuvrability in future high performance aircraft and make them safer. Among concepts proven in the aircraft was the use of paddles to direct jet engine exhaust in cases of extreme altitudes where conventional control surfaces lose effectiveness. Another concept, developed by NASA Langley Research Center, was a deployable wing-like surface installed on the nose of the aircraft for increased right and left (yaw) control on nose-high flight angles. Airflow patterns of smoke, dye and yarn tufts were recorded on both film and videotape for a comparison with computer and wind tunnel predictions during visual airflow studies. The new thrust vectoring system was used to demonstrate controlled flight at 70 degrees angle of attack. The final flight for the F-18 HARV took place at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, on May 29, 1996, and was flown by NASA pilot Ed Schneider. The highly modified F-18 airplane flew 383 flights over a nine year period and demonstrated concepts that greatly increase fighter manoeuvrability.
Active Aeroelastic Wing is a two-phase NASA/US Air Force flight research program to investigate the potential of aerodynamically twisting flexible wings to improve manoeuvrability of high-performance aircraft at transonic and supersonic speeds, with traditional control surfaces such as ailerons and leading-edge flaps used to induce the twist. The program is developing data and structural modeling techniques and tools to help design lighter, more flexible high aspect-ratio wings for future high-performance aircraft, which could translate to more economical operation or greater payload capability. The program uses a modified F/A-18A Hornet as its testbed aircraft, with wings that were modified to the flexibility of the original pre-production F-18 wing. Other modifications include a new actuator to operate the outboard portion of a divided leading edge flap over a greater range and rate, and a research flight control system to host the aeroelastic wing control laws. The Active Aeroelastic Wing Program is jointly funded and managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, with Boeing's Phantom Works as prime contractor.
Conformal Fuel Tanks
The US Navy is considering adding CFTs onto its fleet of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters. The CFTs would allow the F/A-18E/F to carry more than 1,590kg (3,500lb) of additional fuel. Analists expect if the US Navy were to add CFTs to the F/A-18E/F, it might also have to upgrade the aircraft's twin 98 kNf F414-GE-400 afterburning turbofans with an enhanced performance engine (EPE) variant of the F414, which could produce 26,400lbs (120 kN) thrust.
- Royal Australian Air Force (F/A-18A/B, F/A-18F (Lot 32/33)
- Canadian Armed Forces as CF-188
- Finnish Air Force
- Spanish Air Force as C.15 / CE.15
- Swiss Air Force
F/A-18F VFA-102 landing at CV-63 USS Kitty Hawk
NASA F/A-18 HARV
NASA F/A-18 AAW
- Boeing F/A-18 website
- Boeing EA-18 Growler website
- US Navy F/A-18 Fact File
- F/A-18 article Wikipedia English
- F/A-18E/F article Wikipedia English
- NASA F-18 HARV Pages