Home » Air » Air-to-Air Combat » The Super Hornet as a Stealth Killer?

The Super Hornet as a Stealth Killer?

by John Reed on December 30, 2011

That new crop of foreign stealth fighters that’s emerging; don’t worry, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet can handle ‘em. That’s the interesting pitch that Boeing’s man in Tokyo for fighters gave me earlier this month while discussing Japan’s F-X fighter contest. I suspect that’s Boeing’s main pitch for many of it’s potential fighter customers

Basically, the Super Hornet’s active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar — and it’s ability to jam enemy radars and electronic countermeasures — combined with the jet’s infrared search and track (IRST) system will allow it to compete with low-observable jets, said Phil Mills, director of Boeing’s F-X program in an interview just days before Boeing lost that contest to Lockheed Martin’s stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

(IRST systems have been around for decades, they use an infrared sensor to allow a pilot to ID and lock onto a target’s heat signature rather than radar signature.)

Here’s his pitch as to why the newest versions of the Super Hornet will be a viable competitor to the latest stealth jets:

IRST expands our frequency spectrum of sensor coverage so that it gives us much better counter-stealth capability than we had with just AESA.

AESA’s much better [than older radars] as far as detecting small targets. But, AESA plus IRST gives you the capability of not worrying about targets with low radar cross sections, so you can see those targets and actually establish a weapons-quality track without the radar. You can also cue that AESA, that has two and-a-half to three-times the detection range of the old radar anyway, and it can see further than that if you cue it to look at a very small piece of the sky.

The Super Hornet is a proven design, with some stealthiness built in, that can be continuously upgraded to survive in 21st Century aerial combat, added Mills.

The F/A-18E/F is an example of “where Boeing has been really successful, not doing clean-sheet developments so much, but evolving proven designs and integrating new technology and putting in new capabilities on more an evolutionary basis as opposed to a revolutionary, let’s do a clean sheet, like F-35, and go through all the development pains of a new start,” said Mills.

Now, the IRST as a stealth killer could have been Mills’ be a last ditch argument to sell the Super Hornet to Japan. Modern stealth jets are designed to mask their heat signatures. After all, 21st Century stealth isn’t just about being invisible to radar. Truly stealthy designs limit the amount of heat, electronic signals and even noise emitted by the aircraft in an attempt to make them undetectable.

I’d like to see what happens when one of the new IRST-equipped Block II Super Hornets goes up against an F-22 Raptor or F-35. Remember, a Navy EA-18G Growler electronic attack jet did score a fake kill against a Raptor a couple of years ago.

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{ 125 comments… read them below or add one }

tribulationtime December 30, 2011 at 4:44 pm

I belive Mith of stealth planes will be only smoke with avionics advances. Grandfather´s Talle: i was at Britain Battle.

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Raoul Popov December 30, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Combination of IRST + advanced ESM (Spectra) + IR mid range missile (IR MICA) + networking already proved to be be a very lethal silent killer on the Rafale. Ask F22.

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Tom December 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Again that french loving rafale bs! The whole web is poisoned with such comments. There is not one single hard proof of a rafale killing a raptor. And even if there is one – out of 10 battles the raptor most probably would shoot down the rafale 8-9 times. The french are like- hey the rafale shot down a raptor so it has to be better-have the frogeaters said how many of theirs have been downed? The french simply are not willing to admit that their mighty rafale may only be the second best fighter out there, in fact its not even under the top5. And just a hint: the raptor was built to have extremly low IR signature. Fyi the rafale doesnt even have an aesa. Further you named the biggest disadvantag of the french jet: networking. Have a look at lybia the french planes were not able to communicate with other NATO planes properly (i.e. Awacs). Even the way you write this trash shows that you are nothing more than a fanboy whos smashing tech terms around with not exactly knowing what they mean or do- but hey thats a point that all of you french rafaleboys have in common! Ah and hey i have a hard proof against this frog killer, how many copies of this thing were sold beside the ones for sarkis government? And better google videos from usaf pilots speaking of the rafale performance during air war games over saudia arabia – the french were not willing to play bvr. They even insisted on off-radar wvr gun only games. you will find out interesting facts but please dont go and kill yourself after having seen them. Before you ask yes that was needed.

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tiger December 30, 2011 at 11:08 pm

At least Rafale's are not grounded most of the year & have actual combat time.

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George December 31, 2011 at 7:24 am

F-22 was fitted with aLuneburg lens radar reflector for the fights against Rafale, you can clerly see so from the photographs taken by the Rafales TV system. Better luck next time.

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subguy January 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I'd believe it. We use sonar augmenters in sub battles (I've operated them, and they're loud), and have radar reflectors that we can post up in the bridge when we're surfaced, so why not use them on planes?

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A Different Tom January 3, 2012 at 10:36 am

I doubt that an F-22 has ever been in an exercise with non-US aircraft without a radar reflecter, there's no need even for the US's best allies to know how effective the F-22's stealth is or have an opportunity to figure out how to mitigate it.

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Mastro December 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Do we really have to have a post and 40+ responses to some salesman's spiel?

Everyone knows a 4th generation jet can shoot down a stealth- it all comes down to effectiveness.

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Brian Black December 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Everything else being equal, including AESA and IRST, you would probably expect a stealthily designed aircraft to have the edge over another regular aircraft, even one with a few stealthy features. Of course, you can just rely on the continued supremacy of your electronic systems.

A Growler killing a Raptor. Like they say, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. One kill in unknown circumstances is not that impressive. Do it again and again in various scenarios, and then you can brag.

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@E_L_P December 30, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Portions of the Block II Super tech is what would have been in their version of the Joint Strike Fighter had they won that contract: including the APG-79 AESA.

The APG-79 is a very good radar. The problem with that is that the sweet-spot of stealth designs is right around X-Band, the same band that aircraft radars are in.

The idea that the APG-79 (or any other X-band radar) is good against stealth is wishful thinking.

So is the idea of fighter aircraft AESA radars to be used as jammers. This was proven not to be so because of power output duration and heat build up. Australia states they are pretty happy with their new Super Hornet Block II's. One thing they did mention that was gross over-optimism on the show-room floor was using the APG-79 as a jammer. It was also disproved in the F-22 program.

The other thing the Boeing guy doesn't mention is the obvious: the Super has less speed in the heart of the combat maneuver envelop than a classic Hornet.

An F-22 (now the reference threat because of the PAK-FA) and other existing aircraft designs can run down the Super and kill it.

Then there is the single point of failure AMRAAM. A good missile but again not so good against stealth aircraft because of the frequency band.

HOBS and AIM-9X: good.

And consider, with all of the F-35 technical problems, it has no proof that it can cue weapons. Buffet and helmet cueing is hard. Worse with a faulty helmet system.

At least everyone else has a HUD.

But back to Boeing: I understand the concept that Boeing is trying to sell something.

And, at least the Super actually works with knowns as a second-tier strike fighter.

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Kotch December 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Even in a perfect world where it can use IRST and AESA to pierce the veil of stealth the stealthy aircraft can still see the unstealthy hornet at a much greater range and work on avoiding or setting up a shot on it.

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Matt December 31, 2011 at 10:45 am

Fact is stealth aircraft are limited in to pasive sensors if the stealth is to eb maintained(radar vs IRST is like flashlight vs nightvision scope ) so range of detection diminishes rapidly and F22 has no IRST ,F35 has but is limited in other areas .As the article implies AESA range is increasing steadiliy ,stealth aircraft are not invisible ot radar they just have much smaller RCS but mainly head on,in other aspects RCS is substantialy bigger so Aesa with 200mile detection range can detect stealth plane head on at let say 50 ,but from other aspects it could be 100+miles .Same with IRST ,the point i am making is that as range of radars increases so does detection distance for stealth planes,radar preformace growth is limited by space for it and here is where F18 and F35 hit a snag even F22 has a relatively small frontal bulkhead ,F15 and SU27 on other hand have great growth potential which means that in decades to come stealth advantage could/will rapidly deminish .

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Cthel December 31, 2011 at 1:16 pm

One of the big selling points of the F-22 is its AESA LPI (Low Probability of Intercept) radar and datalink.

It' can use its radar without giving away its position by only radiating in very short bursts over a range of frequencies (note, this does not mean the target aircraft isn't aware that it's being spiked, merely that it is a lot more difficult to get a fix on the F-22 through ESM techniques).

A flight of F22s can share radar data so that only one F22 needs to radiate at all, the other planes can make use of this radar data like their own. Alternatively, they can receive radar data from AWACS, which can see the super-hornet from at least 100 nm away.

Also, if you're using the shiny AESA on the super-hornet to search for the F-22, then the F-22 doesn't need to use it's radar to find you; all it needs is it's own ESM system.

As for the size of the F-22 radar bulkhead, there is room to add additional sub-modules to the radar to extend horizontal coverage out to ~270 degrees (incorporated in the design, but not implemented as of now), so there seems to be a fair bit of room available.

Short version: F-22 can see F/A-18 E/F / Su-27 / F-15F before they can see it, so it can shoot first.

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Matt December 31, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Also, if you're using the shiny AESA on the super-hornet to search for the F-22, then the F-22 doesn't need to use it's radar to find you; all it needs is it's own ESM system.

That cuts both ways , LPI AESA is not uniqe to F22 ,remember F22 electronics are old compared to F35 or even new blocks of 4 gen fighters.

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Cthel December 31, 2011 at 9:08 pm

True, but the stealthy aircraft will always have a detection range advantage over the non-stealthy aircraft, assuming equivalent radars on both. Unless the conventional aircraft has a significantly better radar (which at the moment means AWACS-level radiated power or a very long-wavelength radar, which would require a massive antenna) the stealth jet will have a big advantage.

Also, until the stealth-breaking radar technology makes its way into air-to-air missiles, the stealthy fighter will have all the advantages. Even if the super-hornet can see the F-22 at beyond AMRAAM range, there's nothing it can do about it until it gets within AIM-9X range (at best), while the F-22 can happily lob AMRAAMs at the hornet and bug out before it gets in range of retaliation.

val January 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm

as a viet nam era combat pilot (5 tours), its a fact that you can jam everything….EXCEPT the pilot's eyeballs!!!

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blight_ March 22, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Yes, but waiting until VR evens the odds and favors the better dogfighter.

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bernard May 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Lasers can jam eyeballs.

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crackedlenses December 30, 2011 at 7:12 pm

Just wait till Black Owl hears this…..

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Black Owl December 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm
Nick December 30, 2011 at 7:57 pm

It all comes down to what is practical.Since the F22 can't be sold o/s and the f35 is about 5-10 years from becoming operational the practical need to put something on the tarmac comes first.Australia bought the super hornet on this basis.It's good enough considering what might it go up against {mig 29?}and what it might be asked to do.ie plink a taliban utility vehicle

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JE McKellar December 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Boeing and Lockheed should just stage a fighter tournament, F-22 and F-35 on one side, and F/A-18E, F and Growler on the other, with an E-2D for backup. Maybe even let them throw in an F-15SE mockup.

Winner gets a tanker contract, a half-dozen LCS, and a head start on the next space shuttle.

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Nick December 31, 2011 at 12:40 am

You rock. Just made me geek out and lol…my family dosent understand!

Seriously that idea is so full of win that I can’t stop smiling. but yeah that would be the most awesome reality tv show ever.

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oppervlakkig December 31, 2011 at 9:41 pm

If only :-)

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Fluoro Ninja January 3, 2012 at 10:32 am

Sounds like a plan!
How is next week for you guys?

I've got $50 on Boeing (seeing as they'll be the only ones with planes in the air. I accept cash and PayPal)

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Tenn Slim January 4, 2012 at 9:43 am

Im In.
LM vs Boeing. The old Desert Palm Springs area. High Noon.
Excellent.
Ive got 50 lira left over from Naples as my entry.
LM forever.
Semper Fi

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ChuckL January 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I think that I'd put the F-35 in as another opponent of the F-22

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Alamanach January 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Include one other element that everyone here seems to be overlooking: cost. An F/A-18 is cheaper than an F-22. So in our Boeing vs. Lockheed duel, require that the two sides be equal in the aggregate price of all assets involved. If Lockheed fields, say, $500M worth of F-22s, then Boeing can deploy $500M worth of F/A-18s, along with all the numerical superiority that that entails. THAT is a contest that would get some attention…

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Ted McLean March 26, 2014 at 1:13 am

Why not invite the other major competitors? Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen NG, and the Eurofighter. Lets see which plane is the best of the best….

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TH1 December 30, 2011 at 8:39 pm

I've never been in the military, so I am no where near as educated about these topics as most of you are. (I just LOVE military stuff!) Your comments here are more informative for me than the original articles are. So to all of you vets out there:

1. THANK YOU for your service to your country! (I'm American, so mega huge thanks to the American vets!!!!)

2. Thank you again for your insights, it's a pure joy to read them all each day in between my guitar playing :)

I'm very grateful to you all!

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TH1 December 30, 2011 at 10:19 pm

wow, someone gave my post thumbs down for thanking military people and people in general who post comments here that I find helpful… thumbs down huh? amazing

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blight_ March 22, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Sorry, we just think you're a spambot. You're welcome to stick around and learn more, since you haven't pushed Louboutins yet. :P

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rigel January 8, 2012 at 12:19 am

As a Vietnam-era vet,I'm just loving this! Back then,we got nothing but s*** for being in uniform. Now,when someone shows appreciation,I soak it in and return it to them TWICE! THANK YOU FOR THE THANKS YOU GIVE! LUVYALL!

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rickyc March 22, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Me too – flew the 1st F-8's with garbage radar & missiles. Eyeballs and G-suits.

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Tri-ring December 30, 2011 at 9:57 pm

One of the dis-advantages of the F/A-18E/F is that it is a carrier based design meaning it has excess weight such as strengthen landing gears and airframe not necessary for most global military since they do not possess a CATOBAR aircraft carrier.

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tiger December 31, 2011 at 3:19 pm

No it's real disadvantage is that as a American design it comes strings attached & Congressional approval hangups. Other nations have learned the lesson of the F-16 deal to Pakistan held up for years over politics in DC. The Super is also not cheap or simple maintain.

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Praetorian January 2, 2012 at 11:08 am

Cheaper than the Rafale by 25 million per aircraft, and the Rafale does not have an e-scan radar yet. Its not simple to maintain ? I think you got that one wrong. Other nations learned the lesson about the F-16 ??? Are you kidding.
It's in service with 26 countries, 27 soon to be when Irag purchases thier 18
units with a poss. 18 more. Again how many foreign orders does the Rafale have ?

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Fluoro Ninja January 3, 2012 at 10:35 am

Really? You're using a sale of American military hardware to IRAQ (!!) as an example of merit based acquisition??

I think I've got a bridge you may be interested in in buying.

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Praetorian January 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Really ? , are you saying that one sale to Iraq disqualifies the rest of the 26 countries ??
And I never said anything about merit based.

anonymousperson January 2, 2012 at 2:43 pm

The F-18's gear is beastly!

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navyjammerwiz January 3, 2012 at 7:49 pm

the upgraded landing gear and airframe is NOT an inhabitant, except in how it affects the range of the aircraft. With the airfields over there being not to US Air Force standards, having a plane that is capable of handling anything other than a perfect field is a good thing. Plus, from viet nam on, the amount of damage that a naval combat aircraft can take has repeatedly out-performed expectations. Just ask the guys who fly them. Being ex navy and having done a few cruises over on camel station, I can tell you that the f-18 is a perfect fit for their requirements.

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Black Owl December 30, 2011 at 10:44 pm

I think everyone's waiting for me to comment on this. I'm just going to let you guys know that I am quietly sitting here with a smile.

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Ben December 31, 2011 at 12:03 am

Don't smile too smugly now. Boeing's supposed to talk up their aircraft. It doesn't mean it's the suddenly the solution to our problems.

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jumper December 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm

A smile at what? Some Boeing rep makes absurd claims, loses the contract with Japan, and that somehow validated something? IRST and AESA are cool bits of tech, they don't help with survivability though. The F-18 still has a comparatively huge RCS… unless you consider your fighters disposable it's still a huge problem.

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J Hughes December 30, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Boeing has proposed a "Silent Hornet" F/A-18 with an enclosed weapons pod that is carried on the underbelly of the aircraft and some other jazz. There is a video from earlier this year or maybe last year on youtube. Its called the international roadmap f/a-18 or something like that. They were over in India I think showing it off.

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J Hughes December 30, 2011 at 11:00 pm

If you honestly dont think that while we were developing stealth technology, that we were at the same time learning/figuring how to detect it, then you are seriously naive.

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WHAT December 30, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Boeing's just in denial (sour-graping) mode after losing next generation fighter contracts to the F-35. It would be better if they just shut up and start developing their own stealth fighter to give some real competition to Lockmart. I'm pretty confident Boeing can come up with a good stealth plane if they put their minds into it.

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JE McKellar December 30, 2011 at 11:37 pm

Yeah, I bet they could come up with something at least as good as the YF-23, or the X-32.

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StrumPanzer January 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Fighter competition more like a Lobbing competition. He who donates the most money to who ever campaign wins the contract.

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Rick January 5, 2012 at 11:26 am

why really go stealth??if an F-18 or ae-18 can target stelth planes then isnt that proof enough that stealth doesnt work?so why waste money on it?wouldnt it be better to go with speed and more powerful missiles to add to the jets??

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rick January 5, 2012 at 11:29 am

rumor has it the new chinese fighter jet can out fly the F-35 and 22.it can also out gun them so maybe uits time to go back to the drawing board

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Lance December 31, 2011 at 4:20 am

I can say 100% the f-15C E and SE would be the same way. USAF aggressors using F-15s successful engaged and faked killed F-22s at red Flag and was more than enough to kill MiG-29s and SU-27s in exercises in NATO and friendship exercises in Russia. The F-15 can out run (Mach 2.5 vs mach 1.8) and out claim both the F-22 and F-18E/F in combat and had shot down over 300+ planes in US and allied history without one lose in air to air combat. The F-15SE will dominate most fighters well into this century. The USAF will upgraded old Cs to newer standard which passed threw the 2012 budget.

The F-14 was better than the crappy Super Hornet politics killed that plane the Proposed F-14F would have been awesome but Dick Cheney killed in congress while Boeing and former MacDonald Douglas paid his campaigns for that.

USAF rules Navy drools in the fighter field always been that way since the 1990s.

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Mastro January 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm

"always been that way since the 1990s."

Large sample size

The F14 was a maintenance nightmare and the engines used to flame out so much it was a bit of a death trap. When my brother worked at the Air Development Center that was a big project- the only real solution was reengining.

It was time to move on- the F18E/F is not ideal- but it does what it was intended to do.

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Lance January 2, 2012 at 12:24 am

Then time for another pure fighter a new Cat by Grumman.

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Mastro January 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm

To fight who? When they switched to the F18E/F there was basically no air-to -air threat. Just the meager threat of SU-27 exports.

The F18E/F was one of the few times the military realistically developed a weapon system for the threat- it got us through to 2012 without the republic falling- if the F35 works out- we should be fine.

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navyjammerwiz January 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

having been maintenance on aircraft on the carriers, I can tell you that the maintenance/per man hour repair was getting way out of line. I think it was something along the lines of 60 maintenance hours/flight hour. Plus, the availability of parts had become an issue. Yes, the tomcat was a fantastic interceptor, but it just outlived it's own airframe. The engine upgrades to the D model were a great thing, no more flame outs, but that was only a fix that should have been done on the original cat. Maintenance costs is a HUGE consideration now, especially when the biggest cost of putting a bird up in the air is the cost of personnel, and not the parts.

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blight January 8, 2012 at 1:51 am

I approve this message, as it is delivered by a maint. guy over armchair theorycrafting.

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Mark May 26, 2013 at 1:08 pm

F-14 sucks. Anyplane can shoot it down. F-14 is a pice of crap. Take your beloved top gun shit out of here.

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Sanem December 31, 2011 at 7:51 am

on old aircraft with new technology:

Boeing has the right idea, upgrade exisisting aircraft with better technology. designing aircraft from scratch takes much too long and they become outdated way too fast

for example the F-22 is outmatched by the F-35's sensors and systems, while the F-35 will be outmatched by the T-50's L-band radars and probably any AESA radar that is introduced from 2020 onwards

which is why the Typhoon is the best solution: excellent flight performance and just upgrade its technology as new stuff becomes available

on IRST:

I'm more for optical technology, as it's completely unaffected by stealth. the Python 5 and the F-35's EOTS are excellent examples of this, anything in range can be detected, identified, tracked and thus destroyed, regardless of stealth, ECM or flares

on fighter technology:

the concept is outdated, UAVs are the future

in Korea the Chinese swarmed the superior Western forces through sheer numbers

in WW2 France and the UK had better and more tanks, but the Germans used superior tactics

stick missiles on a UAV and they'll defeat any manned fighters through sheer expendable numbers, and superior stealth in the case of UCAVs

the West and Japan need to realise this, because China certainly will

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SJE December 31, 2011 at 9:35 am

You cannot predict what will work, and so must have a mix of options. Drones are great….until the enemy hacks the communications (e.g Iran), or blocks them. Do you want an entire drone AF suddenly hacked and then turned back on us?

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Belesari December 31, 2011 at 9:51 am

You do realise that a UAV is actucally quite expensive really? Like modern ones go for around 30mil.

I have no doubt that the Chinese would try swarm attacks in the air its kinda stated. However, that to me just means concentrating on better fighter designs like the F-22 to take out that numbers problem. Cut the F-35 (which i know wont happen) then use that money to buy more F-22's for the airforce. Develope a good attack aircraft from lessons learned in the A-6 and such. Buy more F-18E/F's.

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tiger December 31, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Washington can't even get a budget together. Where are getting money for planes? The DOD is in cutback mode. Enjoy the stuff you do get. The money tree is empty.

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ProphPhreak January 3, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Yup – for example the B-52, SR-71, among those slightly unclassified as well as other aircraft (highly classified) are heads and shoulders above whatever any other foe can throw at US

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blight_ March 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm

The B-52 is a reliable truck, but isn't exactly technologically advanced. The SR- is long gone and will never come back.

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Schmalz February 1, 2012 at 1:08 am

You probably make the best points here. Traditionally, since the onset of the cold war, it has been the West's quality versus the East's quantity. With UAV's and suprior weaponry we can have both… outgun them with superior quality and quantity. UAV's also allow better performance and can be made more stealthy – and as we know the cockpit was a major vulnerability insofar as the F117's stealth capability was concerend. However, the technology and tactics involved in managing a 'fleet' of UAV's in high intensity combat situations would need to evolve moer to make this a reality.

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J Hughes December 31, 2011 at 8:18 am

Why oh why dont they install IRST in the F-22

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George December 31, 2011 at 11:53 am

Money, and of course the fact that very often weather conditions will make them a useless dead weight. People always seem to forget about the clouds and atmospheric conditions that can ruin an IRST equiped fighters day.

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Brian Black December 31, 2011 at 8:39 am

It would be interesting to see a proper contest between Super Hornet and Lightning II. See what the billions of dollars invested is actually worth.

I expect we’ll unlikely see a face-off, or if we did it would be engineered to give whatever outcome the DoD wants.

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C-Low December 31, 2011 at 11:24 am

OK so lets just take him at his word and say in a air to air battle F-18 will near match F-35 by AESA and IRST.

Ok now considering the fact I can count the air to air battles the US has been involved in post Vietnam with my hands lets consider the primary role of the F-35 and F-18 air to ground attack and penetration. The F-18 will not be able to penetrate our oppositions primary SAMs without high risk.

Stealth's advantage shines in penetration air to ground not air to air.

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C-Low December 31, 2011 at 11:33 am

Also consider that most ofor forces will be fighting defensive were being able to hide from ground based SAM systems is a mute issue. The US since what 1812 have made a doctrine of making our fights away from home usually on the offensive side were SAM systems is a high priority concern.

I see no scenario were US air is fighting defensive over top our SAM's but I do see many were US air is fighting offensively over enemy SAM's were the reduced radar detection bubble for enemy SAM's give our forces ever growing pockets and corridors to fight & penetrate through.

Stealth is a penetration offensive side advantage.

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Dan January 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm

The Shah of Iran bought the F-14 Tomcats & not the F-15 Hornets. Aviation magazine
reported a dog fight Navy vs Air Force. Navy won 13-2. From a tin can sailor.

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Mike January 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

F-15 Eagles, F/A 18 Hornet. Good grief.

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Monochrome December 31, 2011 at 11:51 am

So you are posting a press release?

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tiger December 31, 2011 at 3:48 pm

All of this is nice academic discussion. But what we really are talking about is buying Cold War weapons in a Al Quedia/ terrorist world. The days of Mig Alley jet fights or Air to air over Hanoi need to meet the reality of who your really fighting today. China & Russia are not it.

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crackedlenses December 31, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Leave them out of the equation and we'll see how fast they become a reality….

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blight December 31, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Why should we innovate in tanks, it'll be an infantryman's fight tomorrow as it was yesterday!
~1920's warfighting theory

I imagine this kind of thinking will be tempting to any military with the planes already bought and paid for; and interested in new avionics to extend their viability a little longer. Not sure if IRST will have the range to detect F-22's at long range, though AvWeek had that image of a B-2 imaged at 70km away with a Eurofighter's IRST system. As long as your IRST allows you to quickly scan and acquire a target outside the range of the target's missiles, you gain the advantage.

Others have posted that the F-22 should be able to acquire target locks without total compromising (but using AWACS to see for you is not an option, since it means the enemy will take a shot at a much more expensive aircraft and take fifteen or twenty airmen on before the F-22's.

The alternative opponents may consider is developing and deploying parasite aircraft controllable by a rear seat operator to extend detection range against stealth opponents, but that's a long term move that requires opponents who haven't even made ventures into UAV-land to suddenly make the development, or waiting for Europe to make that move. It'll be another five to ten years from the prototype stage, and we're not even there yet.

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JE McKellar December 31, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I wonder if the rear seat RIO/bombardier will become more important in the age of electronic warfare. That Growler might have gotten the F-22 in part because the backseater could focus on interpreting the various sensor inputs and targeting the missiles while the pilot was focused on maneuver.

Incidentally, I think an A-12 Avenger II program come to term would have made an excellent stealth missileer-type platform.

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citanon December 31, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Would you rather face Al Qaeda and rag tag insurgents or a large, well armed, well trained and well led conventional force?

During Operation Overlord the Allied forces suffered over 200,000 casualties. During the Battle of Iwo Jima Allied forces lost ~7000 killed and 20,000 wounded. In the Vietnam War the US had over 50000 dead. How many casualties has Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Iraqi Insurgents managed to inflict in 10 years of fighting?

We are in an Al Qaeda world because we've become too hard to beat in conventional fights, and we are very fortunate to be in that position. Slack off even a little bit, and we'll go back to the bad old days of conventional warfare right quick.

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blight January 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Additionally, we fought WW2 with the luxury of being outside of enemy strategic attack. No Luftwaffe over Washington DC, for example. The denizens of Tehran and Baghdad had to live under the terror of Scud missiles raining down on their homes; which escalated the stakes and the risks of their war. A war on a distant front line is one thing, and it's another when your missiles enable strikes with near impunity on civilian targets of utility.

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JEFF SZABO December 31, 2011 at 3:57 pm

War is much too complex to be trying to figure this all out. They're still trying to figure out what happened with all the other wars! One thing for certain: If you've got 187 Raptors and they have 2000 Sukhoi's, you're going to run out of weapons and the rest are getting through! Numbers count; just ask the Russkies in WW!!!

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tiger December 31, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Quality is nice. Quantity of quality is better. The ME 262 was great. So were the pilots. In the end, it got beat by sheer quantity of USAAF & RAF planes & tactics.

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Liam May 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

True but the ME 262 was put into service far to late. while anything happening now or in the future there will at least be a decent number of F-22's avaliable and amazing plots to fly them.

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Shail December 31, 2011 at 9:54 pm

One thing too many folks overlook about foreign weapons like these latest adversarial stealth jets (PAK FA, and that chinese thing):
we only have THEIR sales pitches as, ahem, "proof" that their aircraft are truly stealthy.
Until we have multiple instances of confrontations between these aircraft and the latest western types, it's all sale pitches and hype, FROM BOTH SIDES.

Going into Desert Shield/Desert Storm, there was fear of Saddam's latest Russian tanks could be tolerant to 105mm US tank guns, so all those 120mm-armed got priority shipping to the Gulf.
Turns out, 105mm DU "Silver Bullets" walked right thru every Russian T-72 they encountered. So there again, foreign sales pitch hype turned out to be…more hype and little substance.
Multiple foreign systems have been acquired by the US to truly test what said possible adversaries can achieve. Often, things just don't measure up to the hype. But then again, we underestimated the North VietNamese,…
Time will tell how effective these foreign stealth jets are. Problem is, no fight-ready F-35s are anywhere near deployment ready, and so far, the US has been too afraid to send the troubled F-22s into harm's way.

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Juuso January 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

Since when Saddams T-72′s were latest models? Most of them didn’t even have composite armor. Most of Iraqi tanks were actually T-55 and Type-59 tanks… far from what could be called “latest”.

But this should be clear for anyone who has done some reading.

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jhm January 4, 2012 at 6:46 pm

weren't the "silver bullets" the M829A1 APFSDS-T ammunition for the 120 mm gun for the M1a1? Plus, by 1991 the main MBT was the Abrams so obvioiusly they got "priority" shipping. Plus, why would you send f22s to "harms" way right now since really, the only missions our AF has undertaken has been ground attack and strike missions. In Libya, I think a F22 v. a F1 or Mig 21 would have been over kill and a waste of resources. Like Mainstein said, " Don't bring the best you have to a squabble when one punch will do"

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mark January 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Agreed. We lost a F15 over Libya "due to mechanical problems". If it had been a F22 with them, we'da lost an even more valuable LDHD asset. After all, Rumsfeld nailed the coffin shut on their procurement as he tried to be czar of the military. Just read in AFA magazine how he violated the chain of command (downward), circumventing the JCS. Took them to long to can that arrogant narcsist.

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Riceball January 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I think that Shali's point was that at the time leading up to and during the early days of Desert Storm it was believed that Saddam's army was using T-72, which turned out (obviously) to not be the case. Of course we probably should have known better since we've had plenty of examples of export versions of Soviet built tanks courtesy of the Israelis. I don't know why we expected Iraq to have gotten anything better than other Arab nations from Russia but I guess a lot that was un/misinformed media hype.

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James Kreider January 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

If you are a pilot, An airplane engineer, or a use to be a pilot. Stand down and drink a big cuP of STFU. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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james kreider January 1, 2012 at 9:47 am

oops if you are not a pilot etc. Pilots kick ass!

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Oudin January 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I think best way stealth air craft with IRST and AESA, better technology. Unlike non stealth air craft with IRST and AESA.

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Matt January 1, 2012 at 10:51 pm

My bet is that a Super Hornet would be able to kill a foreign fighter like the J-20 or PAKFA which hasnt place as much emphasis on stealth as cost effectiveness. But in a war game between American pilots in Super Hornets vs ones flying Raptors, Raptor would sweep.
Certainly though the combined, networked might of America's fighters (large order of F35s, high performance F22s, carriers to launch from, tankers and AWACS support) would dominate an opposing air power in the end.

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Stratege January 2, 2012 at 3:49 am

F/A-18E/F is far from being on par with PAK-FA in terms of maneuverability, stealth and, more likely, BVR capabilities. Cost effectiveness is purely speculation .
J-20 is probably will play in another league.

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Riceball January 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Speculation is that the J20 is likely not meant to be an air-superiority fighter but more along the line of a fighter-bomber with emphasis on bomber. But this all internet speculation based on the photos that have been posted here and elsewhere, so far as I know the PLAAF hasn't said anything about the intended role of the J20.

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Dave June 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

The Super Hornet has outstanding air superiority capabilities. It has great maneuverability, but it has a low T/W Ratio. Stealthy is the opposite of the SH. The SH is survivable which is the advantage of the Rhino to be taking out future threats to carrier environment. Rhino in BVR should have the first lock due to low RCS. But the Rhino has good nose point authority by chance. Either way the Rhino still has the chance beating up those Sukhois. PAK FA have no idea, but the Rhino will be receiving the Silent Hornet upgrade and the Rhino will be a stealthy platform. But J-20 is a bomber as you can see to its huge size. But either way it will depend on the pilot on those two interface machines.

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Shail January 2, 2012 at 9:03 am

Partly my point: most likely, the first incident between these foreign wannabe-5th-gen aircraft will be with a USN or USMC Super Hornet before any F-22 or F-35…

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Shail January 2, 2012 at 9:07 am

Most, but not all.
And before you go criticizing who read what, consider which units those post-Desert Storm authors interviewed for much of their material.
We were taking down T-55 knock offs with LAV 25s. What were you doing in 1991?
Part of an assessment team at all?

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jhm January 4, 2012 at 6:47 pm

lav 25s armed with TOWs i think

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blight January 8, 2012 at 1:54 am

Only the LAV-AT had TOWs, and only 16 apiece. The majority would have had the Bushmaster. Not a whole lot of TOWs to go 'round. If I recall correctly, a forward unit of Marine LAVs (mixed -25/-AT force) had to give ground against a much larger Iraqi tank unit since TOWs are standoff but aren't exactly a counter-shock unit.

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Riceball January 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm

That's probably true, LAV's weren't designed to be anti-tank units nor did the Corps employ ever really employ them as such. Their job was to serve as recon units and to screen ahead for the main body of a Marine force and sometimes to serve as a taxi for Recon and Force Recon units. I believe the idea was that LAV's would take on anything that wasn't a match for its Bushmaster like other IFV's and light infantry, if it ran into anything too heavy for its 25mm they would then run and report back what it found for the main body to take care of.

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blight January 9, 2012 at 2:30 pm

LAV-25/LAV-AT's were dug in around Khafji and received an assault by a regular army tank unit in Gulf War 1. They lost more men to friendly fire (rear units firing on and destroying friendly LAVs in the day before Blue Force Tracker, reflective patches and IR strobes) than they did to the enemy. However, one cannot realistically expect a company of LAVs to stop a numerically superior foe; which incidentally also used surprise to deceive the Qataris outside of the city itself.

StrumPanzer January 3, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Totally off subject but I would love to see what would happen of you put a pair of Saturn 117S engines in to a hornet.

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jhm January 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm

you would have a horrible engine turn around rate that would make all Navy personal make ancient arcane signs with their fingers

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Randall J. Marlowe January 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm

You have to remember that the original F-18 was desiged by Northrup but so overbuilt by Boeing /MDD that the Navy rejected it due to it's weight. Rebuilt , upgraded and with the weight problem solved it returned to be the great Aircraft that Northrup Designed. It is not to be grounded yet as it is much cheaper than the F-22 or F-35 that have been overpriced by Lockheed Randall J. Marlowe, Buenos Aires

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John January 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm

lets all pray that we never find out if these Stealth systems work or even needed, war kills people not aircraft. Thank God we have the best equipment and best trained men and women not only flying but maintaining them and lets pray they never have to find out just how good our stuff really is

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OMEGATALON January 4, 2012 at 2:38 am

No matter how many changes they make to the F-18E/F Super Hornet, you've got to wonder whether the effort is nothing more than lipstick on a pig because the Russian and Chinese stealth fighters are supposedly designed from the beginning as 5th Generation fighters and may have the upper hand in shooting first; additionally, if the T-50 or J-20 have features of the F-22 Raptor like supercruise and thrust vectoring engine exhaust, they may be able to stay in the air longer and faster as well as more maneuverable than the F-18E/F Super Hornet.

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Dave June 19, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Thrust Vectoring is overhyped. The Super Hornet is very maneuverable. Remember the Rhino will get a 20% increase in thrust. The Rhinos already maneuverable armmed in the fighter configuration. But the other aircraft will have a hard time with the Super Bug. Only that Rhino lacks is speed.

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Tenn Slim January 4, 2012 at 9:48 am

Excellent article.
F18 Avionics essentially vs F22 Avionics. The old ECM game.
One can speculate to doomsday on the best of the best etal.
Only the guy in the front (or the back) can make these avionics work as advetised.
One Chip, one loose connection, one corroded WRA connection, and the whole ball game is a toss up.
We love to play the Avionics what if games, but the lonely tech buried in his test equipment/maintenance shed is the key. W/O real excellent techs, and thier equipment, the whole air battle is lost.
Semper FI

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Chico January 4, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Oh come on guys, enough of this senseless bickering! Being a Vietnam Veteran myself, I can state with a fair degree of confidence that a well-equipped Phantom could do just as much damage as these newer aircraft, not to mention being able to track better in some cases with its "antiquated radar". And with a few Tomcats at the Phantom's side, well you know…the sky's the limit.

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jhm January 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm

damage in ground attack sorties perhaps,

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blight January 11, 2012 at 10:51 am

An interesting theory, though it would require a conversation with pilots still in the service with comprehensive Vietnam experience.

In air-to-air, the Phantom might've done better with newer model missiles and with Red Flag/Topgun training, so comparing the meh service record of the Phantom of early Vietnam with today…?

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Chico January 4, 2012 at 12:24 pm

By the way fellow military buddies, newer DOES NOT always mean better!

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Zenpistolero January 4, 2012 at 4:55 pm

OMG – newer doesn't mean better was never demonstrated as well to me as when I was in White Sands. I was privileged to watch a F-117 try to dogfight a Phantom. It was almost like the Phantom was on a string being towed behind the stealth "fighter". So many bones in the F-117 came from the F-15 (I think the landing gear is a bolt-in perfect swap) that I had expected a better showing… I guess the skin mattered too much.

We need to not get as caught up in the tech side of it as the human side. F-15s have taken down much newer aircraft successfully thanks to an abundance of pilot skill, thrust, and guns.

Murphy is an avionics engineer.

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Mark January 4, 2012 at 8:28 pm

TH1, you're welcome. It's thanks like that from the citizens that make it all the more worthwhile. May God Bless you and our country.

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Rick January 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I say bring back the F-14 and build more updated f-15's stealth doesnt really work since we have the technology to now pick it up.its a waste of money.we have 4 great jets now just update them and keep them more pilot friendly.I still believe in a good pilot is still better than a computer.

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Vladimir June 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm

FUCK THE F-14! FLANKERS CAN BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF THE F-14 ANY DAY. FUCKING F-14 PIECE OF GRUMMAN SHIT.

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Hoosgon January 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm

When you get thru all the bells, whistles and Bravo Sierra, it comes down to cost, reliability and pilot capability. This country has an impressive record of rehabing and upgrading dependable platforms (think B52) and saving gazillions in the process. Sure, doesn't make the glitz crazy 4 stars happy but keeps dependable stuff in play.
The F22 and F35 are budget cutters bullseyes, and you all see the results. Bottom line is cost and effectiveness. And the best damn pilots in the world.

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a cedrone, jr January 7, 2012 at 11:13 pm

With the certain upcoming budget cuts the services are going to have to work with the manufacturers to upgrade present air fleets instead of replacing them. This can and must be done to remain within present and future budget. The B-52's maiden flight was in 1952 and entered active service in 1955. The Air Force intends to retain B-52s until 2045 even though the next generation bombers meant to replace the B-52 are already in existence. Who is going to challenge us in the next 10-15 years – China or Iran? I doubt it. Anything we have in our arsenal is better than anyone else will have ( that is unless secrets are 'lost' or sold ) for a long time. Upgrading is the way to go.

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Mario January 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm

The super hornet international road map is the way of the future, affordable, sustainable, good enough to do the job at the right price.
After the navy sends the tomahawks or the USAF the B-2, if there still a neccesity of an air to air battle,They can work as a team with the growlers, with 12 Ammrams internaly in the stealth external pods, plus 2 Aim-9x externally… (14 Air-to air missiles) each.
They can share the information and make a triangle with the UAVs to track and destroy anything.
After that, you need a real truck to deliver tons of bombs during the war, also to do CAS, for months, even years. The F-35 is coming too late, small UAVS are changing the rules.

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godzillajet January 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm

f-22 has like the b-2 cooled engines that makes them harder totrack and to lock, f-22 will get IRST in block 40 upgrade.

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kush singh January 29, 2012 at 12:10 am

These types of technology should be sold to Indian Air Force, in almost 500 number's , in order to counter & control China's rogue build-up.

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AV79 October 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm

"Now, the IRST as a stealth killer could have been Mills’ be a last ditch argument to sell the Super Hornet to Japan."

Grumman tried the same argument to save the F-14D. The F-14D was supposedly the best conventional fighter to counter stealth technology with its passive sensors (IRST and TCS) as well as its super powerful radar back in the early 90s. Now Boeing is saying the F/A-18 with a weaker radar and an IRST can do the same thing… They sound like used car salesmen…

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idahoguy101 December 24, 2012 at 4:22 pm

It's reasonable to assume that a Nation can afford twice as many Super Hornets compared to Generation 5 Fleet. Since quantity has it's own quality a less high performance Fleet in greater numbers can defeat a smaller force of superior aircraft. In WW2 the Me 262 fighter was defeated this way. If there are not enough aircraft in your inventory then you'll be defeated by attrition.
Stealth along with Jammers has an offensive role in SEAD against SAM's and Interceptors until your Enemy's Air Defenses are a depleted force capable of only local defense.

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Javier December 29, 2013 at 8:10 pm

The F-14D would've been a hell of a lot better at detecting stealthy targets. That was early 90's technology. Just think of what capabilities the F-14 could have today. Too bad SecDef Cheney had an axe to grind.

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Adelaide March 12, 2014 at 6:59 am

Good post. I’m dealing with many of these issues as
well..

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blight_ March 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Means HARM missiles will be severely handicapped.

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