Limited-Edition Print of 500 (13x19) signed and numbered by the Artist.
Seen here in Afghanistan in 2010 an F-18F is releasing heat Flares...
The follow article on the F-18F is from Dr Carlo Kopp, MAIAA, MIEEE
Originally published in Australian Aviation May/June, 2001
The Super Hornet is substantially a new aircraft, which shares only limited structural commonality with the F/A-18A-D family of fighters. While the F/A-18E/F forward fuselage is derived from the F/A-18C design, the wing, center and aft fuselage, tail surfaces and powerplants are entirely new. The baseline avionic system is however largely derived from the F/A-18C, with planned growth through further evolved derivatives of the radar, EW and core avionic systems, and entirely new systems where appropriate.
The designation F/A-18E/F reflects the fact that the aircraft is derived from the F/A-18A-D, even if it is a significantly larger airframe design - the program was implemented as an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) to avoid a costly demonstration program and fly-off, as has occurred with the F-22/YF-23 and JSF. A side effect of this idiosyncrasy in nomenclature is that the F/A-18E/F is frequently dismissed as just another Hornet, yet the aircraft is different in many respects.
From a design perspective, the most notable change in the Super Hornet is its size, designed around an internal fuel (JP5) capacity of 14,700 lb, or 36% more than the F/A-18C/E. This most closely compares to the F-15C, which has around 10% less internal fuel than the Super Hornet.
Sizing around a 36% greater internal fuel load, with the aim of retaining the established agility performance of the F/A-18C, resulted in a larger wing of 500 sqft area, against the 400 sqft area of the F/A-18C, a 20% increase. The consequent sizing changes result in a 30,885 lb empty weight (31,500 lb basic weight) aircraft, a 30% increase against the F/A-18C. Not surprisingly, the aircraft's empty weight is 8% greater than the F-15C, reflecting the structural realities of catapult launches and tailhook recoveries.
The larger F414 engine, a re-fanned and evolved F404 variant, delivers 20,700 lb static SL thrust in afterburner, which is around 8% less than the F100-PW-220 in the F-15C.
The simplest metric of the F/A-18E/F is that it is an F-15A-D sized F/A-18C derivative, optimized for the naval environment. The similarity in size between the F/A-18E/F and F-15A-D is no coincidence - as the original VFAX studies in the 1960s and 1970s showed, this is the optimal fighter size for the given combat radius. In effect, the F/A-18E/F is what the F/A-18A Hornet should have been from the outset, had it not been hobbled at birth by a budget driven bureaucracy.
Size is where the similarity between the Super Hornet and Eagle end, since the Super Hornet is optimized aerodynamically around the F/A-18A-D configuration, with a focus on transonic maneuvers and load carrying performance, and carrier recovery characteristics. In terms of raw performance, the Super Hornet is very similar to the F/A-18C, but provides significantly better CAP endurance and operating radius by virtue of its larger wing and internal fuel load.
With three 480 USG drop tanks, full internal fuel, combat and reserve fuel allowances, 8 x AIM-120 AMRAAMs and 2 x AIM-9 Sidewinders, the aircraft has a point intercept radius in excess of 650 NMI, with some assumptions made about expended missiles. This is radius performance in the class of the F-15C.
Like the F/A-18A-D, the F/A-18E/F was designed from the outset for a dual role fighter bomber mission environment. The enlarged wings have three hard points each, typically loaded with a pair of 480 USG tanks inboard and weapons on the pair of outboard stations. The wingtip Sidewinder rail is retained.
A notable aerodynamic feature is a significantly enlarged strake design over the baseline Hornet, intended to improve vortex lifting characteristics in high AoA maneuvers, and reduce the static stability margin to enhance pitching characteristics - Boeing cite pitch rates in excess of 40 degrees per second.
Structurally the Super Hornet is built largely from aluminum alloys, with extensive use of carbon fibre composite skins in the wings, and titanium in several critical areas. The design load factor limit of 7.5G is identical to the F/A-18A-D.
The most notable visual difference between the F/A-18A-D and F/A-18E/F, to the casual observer, are the engine inlets. These are are fixed in geometry, but using a rectangular geometry more akin to the F-15 design.
The inlets represent a key design optimization intended to reduce the aircraft's forward sector radar cross section. The edge alignment of the inlet leading edges is designed to scatter radiation to the sides, and fixed fanlike reflecting structure in the inlet tunnel performs a role analogous to the mesh on the inlets of the F-117A, keeping microwave illumination off the rotating fan blades.
In terms of broad comparisons, the F/A-18E/F most closely compares to the late model F-15 variants. While it does not have the supersonic optimized wing and top end BVR combat and supersonic agility performance of APG-63(V)2 phased array fitted F-15C models, it has a more recent avionic package, radar cross section reduction measures absent on the F-15 and a very modern defensive EW package. In most key respects, the Super Hornet is a substantial improvement over the established F/A-18A-D models, especially in combat radius performance. While the aircraft is frequently criticized for not offering a dazzling supersonic agility and thrust/weight performance increase over the baseline F/A-18C, this was not a primary design objective. Rather, the aim was to provide a low risk near term growth aircraft exploiting the established technology investment in the F/A-18C, and utilizing newer technologies such as RCS reduction, integrated MIDS data link and advanced countermeasures to improve the aircraft's survivability and lethality without the cost penalties of a clean sheet new design.