Home » Air » Upgraded F/A-18 to begin test flights; offer Navy alternative to F-35C

Upgraded F/A-18 to begin test flights; offer Navy alternative to F-35C

by Brendan McGarry on April 8, 2013

Boeing Co. as early as this summer will fly for the first time an upgraded version of the F/A-18 Super Hornet that it’s pitching to the U.S. Navy as an alternative to the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-35, a Boeing vice president said.

A Super Hornet outfitted with a weapons pod on its belly, an avionics system in the cockpit featuring a touch-screen pad, and other modifications will begin test flights in late summer or early fall from St. Louis and then from Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Md., according to Mike Gibbons, vice president of F/A-18 programs at Chicago-based Boeing.

The improvements, to include new engines made by General Electric Co., are part of a company investment designed to provide the service with an alternative to the F-35 Lightning II during a period of tightening defense budgets, Gibbons said today at the Sea-Air-Space exhibition, a three-day conference at National Harbor, Maryland, organized by the Navy League.

“We’re not trying to replace the F-35,” he said in an interview after a media briefing. “We’re just trying to give the Navy solutions as they look at that fleet mix and figure out what works best.”

The F-35 program, known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is the Defense Department’s most expensive acquisition effort, estimated to cost almost $400 billion for a total of 2,443 aircraft. The Navy plans to buy about 260 of the Navy variant of the plane known as F-35C, designed to take off from and land on aircraft carriers.

Even the Navy’s top officer has questioned the need for a stealth naval aircraft such as the F-35 given advances in radar technology. In an editorial last year in “Proceedings,” a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Naval Institute, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, argued that “we need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms — with their built-in capabilities — toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection.”

During a speech this morning, Greenert defended the F-35. “I need the fifth-generation strike fighter,” he said. “We’re all in, but it has to perform.”

Regardless, Boeing wants the F/A-18 to be that cheaper workhorse for the Navy.

“Everybody needs defense dollars to stretch further,” Gibbons said. “That’s why the Super Hornet looks good right now.”

The Defense Department faces $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade under deficit-reduction legislation passed in 2011. Half of that, about $500 billion, will come from automatic, across-the-board cuts — unless Congress and the White House agree to an alternative spending plan.

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{ 132 comments… read them below or add one }

chris April 8, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I see the USN's force structure shaping up to be much like the USAFs… A handfull of F-35C squadrons for blue-water ops (They wouldn't even necessarily need one per carrier as they will no doubt be augmented with USMC 35 squadrons) and mostly Super Hornets replacing the aging legacy hornet fleet. The EA-18G is here to stay, and I don't see why the platform in general won't be either.


Nicky April 8, 2013 at 5:11 pm

I can see the US Navy playing the smart card by having the Super Hornet as a back up for the F-35. They might as well ditch the F-35 for the Super Hornet International Road map.


blight_ April 8, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Since the -35C isn't replacing the Super Hornets, they're going to have to upgrade the Hornet eventually. It's a question of now or later.


William_C1 April 9, 2013 at 3:05 am

The "classic" Hornets aren't going to be upgraded any further. The F-35C was never intended to replace the Super Hornet, although I'm sure Lockheed would droll over that prospect.


blight_ April 9, 2013 at 9:10 am

Blah, I meant to say Super Hornet in both instances.

blight_ April 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm

That said, once the -35C's are straightened out they will finally dump the Hornets, or boneyard them.

Perhaps we should be asking Boeing to design the next twin-engine naval fighter. Or Northrop Grumman, if they didn't fire every last Grumman engineer already (though since '94, how many of them would have retired after 19 years in NG).

Grahame July 6, 2013 at 8:18 pm

F14 was never a dog fighter. (except in Top Gun) It was fast long range and had a good radar and the phoenix. The package was designed to take down backfire bombers from distance and the weak link today is phoenix which is big and not designed for maneuver. It had a lot of trouble with the other teen series US fighters in BFM. F14 was also a maintenance hog and its availability rate was poor. Having a single aircraft type on deck with high availability allows the ship to put a lot more fighters in the air at any time compared to the F14 / F18 mix and three times as many compared to the old mix of F14s and dedicated bombers and tankers. It is also a big radar target and can be seen a loong way away.


Roy Smith April 8, 2013 at 4:47 pm

What is the upgrade officially called? Is it a block upgrade,will the upgraded F/A-18 be a F/A-18H/I? This article seems vague to me on designation of the new “upgraded” FA-18.


STemplar April 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Super duper Hornet.


Brandon April 9, 2013 at 10:54 am

LoL That is the only logical choice.


Some Dude April 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm

IMHO, I doubt it will get a new designation (F/A-18H/I); it'll probably be a block upgrade.


BlackOwl18E April 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm

The Block III is the name that Boeing and the US Navy have been dodging so much because it's not politically correct and implies that the Navy will inevitably buy it. This is also why I keep using this term without fail.


johnvarry April 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Its based on the technologies, conformal fuel tanks, and stealth weapons pod of the F/A-18i that was developed for India's fighter competition. India didnt choose the F/A-18 but lots of cool stuff was developed for the Super Hornet. Since the new mod includes new electronics and uprated engines it might get a new model letter. Im curious if the conformal tanks will carry enough fuel to free up two wing stations normally reserved for drop tanks. Add drop tanks and conformals and should be a healthy range for CAP's.


NavyGuy2007 April 10, 2013 at 11:28 am

Would be intresting. As I recal, the only aircraft in the US inventory that uses Conformal Fuel Tanks regularly is the F-15E, C/Ds are cabable but dont very often.


hcboss August 27, 2013 at 8:10 pm

it's called ASH (advanced super hornet), i was part of the mod team


Lance April 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Both are not a real solution. We need a fleet defender fighter like the F-14 again with longer range than any F-18 can have. I think both F-18H or F-35C would be inferior to this. So the navy keeps putting a band aid to a giant opening hole solution. to this. We need a fleet defender.


rawr April 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm

super tomcat?


Belesari April 8, 2013 at 6:09 pm
Big-Dean April 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm

that would've been the ticket for sure


blight_ April 8, 2013 at 6:38 pm

RIP Grumman.

Weaponhead April 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm

That is what F/A-XX is supposed to be. Going SH now could open the door to developing F/A-XX, so the two are linked. I the Navy goes down the F-35C route they wont have the cash to start to develop a new aircraft until about 2032. And the F-35C can't do the air dominance mission, and lack internal payload and range for the strike mission in the PACOM AOR.


Tiger April 11, 2013 at 11:58 am
Guest April 11, 2013 at 6:28 pm

What about a navalized f-22 (reinforced frame, folding wings)?


KnowsAboutIt May 22, 2013 at 10:03 am

F-22 has a terrible Mission Capable rate and should just be cut as it has been plagued with problems.


sprhrntcdr October 10, 2013 at 10:23 pm

The F-14 Program is History, Yes that Aircraft had a Great History, But it finished its Service 6 years ago. The Tomcat Was a great plane to flew, she was fast, But she was riddled with problems. The early Tomcats that were Pratt and Whitney powered were Mechanics Best friend. Boeing Came out with the Advanced Super Hornet in less than a year, Leading me to ask, WHY has it taken Locheed 25 years to bring the F-35 to where it is and still not ready. The Growler Platform, a Sister of the Super Hornet was brought into service in 22 months from Program Start. Showing the F/A-18 Platform is Easily Adaptable to many Roles. In Closing I know what I am talking about, As a Retired Naval Aviator with over 9600 hours in my 28 year Career, and over 1070 Carrier arrested Traps onboard 13 different Carriers. I have Flown the F-14A/B/D, F/A-18A/B/C/D/E/F, A-7E. E/A-6B, E/A-18G along with several Models of U S Air Force Aircraft.


Josh April 8, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Just make it semi-stealth, and I'm in on the idea of it replacing the F-35 entirely. I have always loved the F-18.


Prodozul April 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm
Josh April 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm

There is no information stated above that this is stealth.


Aimhigh April 8, 2013 at 7:35 pm

A clean F-35 isn't 360 degree stealth either so semi-stealthy and mega-cheaper wouldn't be bad


Ben April 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm

It employs some stealthy features, most notably the underbelly internal weapons pod. DT really underwhelmed us with the details on this one…

There's a video kicking around featuring Boeing's chief test pilot talking about all of the upgrades.


Josh April 8, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Where can I find this video?

Charley A April 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm

In the briefing, the Boeing rep stated that they will be leasing a Navy SH, and testing the CFTs, the stealthy weapons pods, and certain modifications to improve signature which he could not discuss. All to occur late this summer at Boeing St. Louis and Pax River, at company expense. The Navy rep that these mods are not part of the program of record.


Brandon April 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

The Super Hornet already has some stealth incorporated. I dont have the proper terminology but the engine ducts/inlets are the most notable. The fans are supposedly more stealthy as well and the rest of the stuff is minor. I am unsure if they use any RAM in the paint scheme. The weapons pod would add a huge degree of stealth when putting a loaded Super Hornet next to one with all its weapons in a weapons pot.


Air Jordan May 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm
BlackOwl18E April 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Quick message to all of those who argued against me on this issue: BOO YAH SUCKERS! KISS MY @$$!


Big-Dean April 8, 2013 at 5:54 pm

too funny :-D


Restore Palestine April 9, 2013 at 12:59 am

BlackOwl18E, 90%+ of the posters here are either morons or mentals. You don't want them to touch you anywhere lest you get infected with nasty diseases. Just tell them to kiss their own filthy ugly @$$e$.


wpnexp April 9, 2013 at 1:16 am

This from a guy posting with the title Restore Palestine? Good luck with that. Might want to see what the IDFs position is on your thought process. They've changed the minds of lots of people in the past. Based on your general attitude toward people, I'd think your comments are better directed to your mirror.


Restore Palestine April 9, 2013 at 1:49 am

In short, you are among the 90% of the posters here I was referring to. Enough said.


Infidel4LIFE April 9, 2013 at 11:37 am

SPEAK 4 URSELF jerk *ff. Restore palestine? You are part of that 90% I believe..


wpnexp April 9, 2013 at 1:08 am

Well, A whole lot more F-35s Have been produced that these upgraded F/A-18 whatevers. Actually, the stealthly pod underneath the Super Hornet is likely to kill the idea, as anything on the centerline close to the deck will likely fowl up carrier landings anyway. Imagine landing with that expensive pods at night at a high sea state, and you see the problem. So having a stealthy SH without a stealthy weapon will be meaningless.


Nadnerbus April 9, 2013 at 1:27 am

They already land find with a centerline fuel tank, why would the weps pod be any different?


Yur A Dumbass May 22, 2013 at 10:06 am

LOL F/A-18's have been flying centerline tanks for 20+ years on a carrier. But I am sure you are right… It will never work.


@E_L_P April 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm

At least the super can trap and doesn't have a hook placement based on faulty assumptions. Oh yeah, then there is that weight thing. http://is.gd/sShzCh


Nadnerbus April 9, 2013 at 1:28 am

Comes standard from the dealer with bubble canopy too.


William_C1 April 9, 2013 at 3:26 am

Do you honestly think Lockheed engineers (Northrop Grumman has a role in the F-35 as well) didn't do a ton of studies about the tail-hook placement on the F-35C? From what I've read the redesigned hook is working in testing.


STemplar April 9, 2013 at 4:20 am

Yes, I honestly believe they didn't or it wouldn't have been so F-ed up to begin with. Having to go back and redesign something typically means you didn't spend a lot of time looking at what has come before or you wouldn't have to redesign.


William_C1 April 9, 2013 at 5:02 am

No denying the program has been horribly managed in the past, but on the engineering side of things these guys aren't amateurs.


STemplar April 8, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Boy, does Greenert smoothly say he doesn't like the F35 or what?


Josh April 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm

He is probably mad that Boeing's God-ugly X-32 didn't win the JSF contract.


SlapStick April 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Are those the Conformal Fuel Tanks that have been rumored? That would require more powerful engines for sure. That however would hurt F18's transonic acceleration even more. Might be worth it.


Ben April 8, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Watch the link I posted above.

20% increased thrust from newly developed engines, 0 net drag gain from external pod/conformal tanks, extended range overall.


SlapStick April 8, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Probably not cruise drag but I don't see how it could not add wave drag.

That also puts a lot of faith in GE to deliver on time, on budget and on spec the new engines.


Got more Gas May 22, 2013 at 10:09 am

Actually they are a net zero addition for drag as the increased height by the turtle backs adds lift. It is a perfect solution that holds as much fuel as the 480 gal externals.


Nick April 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Lets think about this for a minute, it can trap, it's has longer range, it can dog fight, it's way way cheaper, it's proven, well folks sounds like a no brainer. Boeing you're a day late and a dollar short with a way better product than that over price, worthless, POS that the pentagon has crammed up there asses. Typical.


William_C1 April 9, 2013 at 3:18 am

The tail-hook fix for the F-35C supposedly works. Range won't be greater than the F-35C unless you are using the CFTs and carrying all three external fuel tanks. A rather ungainly configuration. Unless Lockheed manages to botch the current transonic buffeting issues, the F-35C will be just as good (probably better) in a dogfight as the F/A-18E.


Josh April 9, 2013 at 7:49 pm

The F-35, if it works, has undoubtedly avionics and stealth. The F-18 may be more maneuverable, but that doesn't mean anything when you are being fired upon at BVR and can't see the opponent.


Hunter76 April 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm

A desperate attempt to maintain manned aircraft.


Nadnerbus April 9, 2013 at 1:36 am

I recommend the video link that Ben posted above, more information in that three minute video than this article, really, so I'll repost it:

My biggest question is, what exactly is the range extension? Does this give the bug anything near the range of the A6 or Bombcat? Any benefit for the tanker role that the Hornet has been pressed into?

There is something to be said about the known quantity when dollars are tight. I would like to see more variety and specialization on the decks of the carriers, but refining the Hornet is probably the best idea for our current situation, militarily and financially.


BlackOwl18E April 9, 2013 at 2:10 am

What Boeing said was that with the conformal tanks attached and a centerline fuel tank it provides the same range as a Super Hornet with 3 external fuel tanks.


William_C1 April 9, 2013 at 3:03 am

BlackOwl, I think you're getting a bit too excited by this. Boeing sees a business opportunity, they won't admit publicly, but they'd love if the Navy dropped the F-35C, bought more Super Hornets, and then went to them as the natural choice for the F/A-XX.

Chances are the Navy won't buy new airframes, however they may well upgrade existing aircraft with new engines, avionics, and CFTs while not abandoning their commitment to the F-35C. The EA-18G is a very appealing candidate for most of these upgrades, while the F/A-18E and F/A-18F will continue to be the main workhorse of the Navy for another two decades at least. Even presuming our country gets back on track, our next fighter after the F-35 (currently F/A-XX) won't enter production until 2025 at the earliest.

The Navy is pretty much committed to buying some number of F-35Cs. Beyond that the final number will depend on how well the aircraft is received by pilots and what increase in capability it provides. The Navy is still rather hesitant about stealth aircraft due to the spectacular failure of the A-12 program, yet once they get an aircraft with such capabilities that will probably change.


BlackOwl18E April 9, 2013 at 9:53 am

Everything you just said is stuff everyone knows already. You argued with me constantly about how the Navy will need and want the F-35C. You know what I have to say to you now:

KISS MY @$$, William!


William_C1 April 10, 2013 at 1:18 am

Okay now you're just being childish. Reading between the lines, the Navy has always been somewhat hesitant towards JSF. They wanted the A/F-X which was a program they had more control over. Yet that program was short-lived and effort was redirected to JAST and later JSF. There was a lot of compromise involved in this for the Navy.

It wasn't too long ago when most of the Navy was opposed to the Super Hornet and wanted upgraded variants of the Tomcat instead. The politics went in favor of the Super Hornet and many still regret this. Yet that aircraft has managed to prove itself in service. The F-35C will have the same opportunity.

There are some in the Navy who do indeed recognizes the F-35C will provide a very useful set of capabilities even if it isn't what the Navy wants.


crackedlenses April 10, 2013 at 1:46 am

Give him a break; he has been fighting for this, sometimes singlehandedly, for a year or two now. May be too early to do a victory dance, but it is perfectly understandable.

As for the JSF, we all have a vested interest in it working. Let's hope the overruns were not completely in vain.


crackedlenses April 10, 2013 at 1:48 am

Give him a break; he has been fighting for this, sometimes singlehandedly, for a year or two now. May be too early to do a victory dance, but it is perfectly understandable.

As for the JSF, we all have a vested interest in it working. Let's hope the overruns were not completely in vain.


BlackOwl18E April 10, 2013 at 2:09 am

Been arguing about this for three years specifically, not that I've been counting or anything.

The Navy was opposed to the Super Hornet for much different reasons than why it is so opposed to the F-35 right now. The Navy was primarily opposed to the Super Hornet at first because of the speed and power it was used to with the Tomcat. However, it was not merely politics that killed the Super Tomcat, but it was also cost factors. No one in the Navy will tell you that the Super Hornet is an inefficient or unreliable aircraft. It turned out great.

The CNO practically said that the only reason we are buying the C-model now is so the A-model price does not increase for our international customers. That is the ONLY reason the Navy has stayed on board. If it could leave then it would have left a long time ago. I don't think the Navy is even going to bother with trying to use the F-35C for carrier ops. They're just going to buy them and put them in storage.

Lastly, you need to specify who these "many that still regret" the Super Hornet are? I certainly haven't meant any of them since I've been in the Navy. If anything the only regret I hear about is that of the Navy's decision to join the F-35 program. Stop mentioning abstract people in the Navy who have opinions that agree with yours, because I certainly have meant them and I am active duty in the Navy.


William_C1 April 10, 2013 at 3:47 am

The Super Hornet turned out well in the end, I won't deny that. Yet in my opinion politics played a large role in its selection, although there were indeed some good arguments in favor of that aircraft.

I shouldn't have said "many" still regret that choice, "some" would be more accurate. I'm sure if you look hard enough you can find some former F-14 types who think the Navy would have been better off with the Super Tomcat. There were many critical statements and assessment made about the Super Hornet in the late '90s and early 2000s, some of which were made by Navy pilots, officers, and strategists. I doubt all of those people became converts. From what I've read some in the A-6 Intruder community didn't like "their" aircraft being replaced either.

I myself think the Navy made the right decision if it enables them to get a 5th generation multi-role fighter sooner rather than later. Whether or not the F-35C is enough is open to debate. Yet the only alternative won't even be in prototype form until well over a decade from now.

Even you must admit that the F-35C probably has some degree of support, however small, amongst the Navy. It may not even be among the fighter pilots but elsewhere. Yet regardless, the number the USN is committed to buy for the sake of the JSF program as a whole provides an opportunity for the F-35C. It gets a foot in the door. Nobody is going to throw 100+ VLO strike fighters with cutting edge sensors in some hanger and forget about them. The USMC also intends to operate their 80 F-35Cs from Navy carriers.

M Peterson April 9, 2013 at 3:25 am

As far as foreign-military aid, I think the Super Hornet is a good product for the next future decades as a delivery platform aircraft of standard roles in allies around the world.

It seems to deliver more than any upgraded F-15 Eagle platform in offering Electronics/Bomber/Fighter roles in either land/sea based militaries. I'd rather see that being given to someone like Egypt rather than F-35's that could possibly penetrate Israeli airspace without so much as a how-do-you-do…


Tony C. April 9, 2013 at 6:39 am

F-18C's had a very tough time against former East German MIG-29K's in aerial combat wargames. The MIG-29 can out climb and out run the F-18C. The F-18C is more manuverable at low altitude than the MIG-29, so the only way to defeat a MIG-29 is to keep it low and slow. The MIG's employ the same hit and run tactics that the old F-4 Phantom pilots did in Viet Nam to defeat the F-18. The F-18E is larger and carries more ordnance, but less manuverable than the F-18C. The F-18E/F are the work horse, but will sustain heavy losses against the MIG-29, SU-27, SU-33, and MIG-35.
The F-35C was expected to mitigate these losses by giving a first shot advantage, but the F-35 is not an air superiority fighter. That means the US Navy had better keep F-18 reserve squadrons trained and ready in the event of an actual shooting war with an advanced adversary. There is no real solution to the problem until the US Navy perfects the UCAV. The UCAV will be the game changer.


William_C1 April 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

UCLASS isn't built for air-to-air combat.


Grahame July 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Yeah they did have trouble in the high speed envelope but in the low speed the Hornet smoked em and is renowned for its sub sonic maneuverability in combat. As soon as the initial closing speed has bled off the Hornet is in its element. Beyond visual the Hornet smoked the Mig 29 mercilessly. What the Hornet could not handle was the Archer wide aspect coupled with the Migs helmet sight. The result of that was that the Hornet pilots learned you shoot them with amraam b4 they are in their own detection envelope and then move in on survivors as they try to recover from their low and slow due to dodging the amraam's. The addition of the helmet sight to the Hornet and the all aspect sidewinder will address most of these issues.


Peter August 3, 2013 at 10:21 am

For the record………..
The Super Hornet is way more maneuverable and much more agile when carrying A2A weapons or clean than the F/A-18C. The F/A-18C was more of a fleet escort aircraft. If you want a more capable Air Superiority platform that's much more competitive to the newer Flankers…. Than Super Bug is your choice. If you want a speed racer and a stunt aircraft , F/A-18C is the choice. The Rhino seems to be better than the Hornet in the Air Superiority arena. Both are in the same Attack class. I bet many would want to fly the Rhino because it's more maneuverable and agile if you push it's limits well. I'd rather fly the Rhino (being more capable) than the lesser capable F/A-18C


TJRedneck April 9, 2013 at 7:25 am

Funny how you read about all the drawbacks of both the F-35 and F-18s. No matter how they upgrade them, they still don't cut it. But you never heard these complaints about the F-14 Super Tomcat. What we really need is a 5th Generation F-14. In the meantime, Boeing needs to make the F-18 more like the F-15SE and give it some F119 engines.


F4N-4EVR July 11, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Here here! To the real engines for the 18! We were telling the battery heads that with both the yf-17 and hornet number one! But true to form not only didn't they listen, they came out with the super dawg f-35 basset hound that can't even see it's own butt!


d. kellogg April 9, 2013 at 7:54 am

Too funny…

"We’re not trying to replace the F-35,…”

Any more than the "Interim" Stryker (and the associated "Interim" Brigade Combat Teams) was not going to replace the FCS, but rather supplement them?

If anything, let this be a wake up call to LM that they've had ample time to drag this moneymasker (F-35) out long enough with minimal delivery of promised project.
Time to tool up, get heads out of @sses, and get reliable F-35s built, or start losing numbers because Boeing's Super Hornet offering can just as well do probably 80% or better what the F-35s can (only things SH can't do are the STOVL and over-the-target first-day-of-war strikes…the second of which really would rely on PGMs anyway, not Desert-Storm-esque F-117-like overflights right into the heart of enemy airspace, which seems to be something F-35 proponents think it should be doing).


Super Rhinoceront July 15, 2013 at 11:46 am

"We’re not trying to replace the F-35,…” that's true.

In fact, the F-35C is trying to replace the Super Hornet with little succes untill now.


d. kellogg April 9, 2013 at 7:59 am

On another note, if indeed the Super Hornets are supposed to supplement the F-35s, on grounds of commonality, it would be interesting to see if the SH can mount the 5-barrel GAU-12 (or even 4-barrel GAU-22) in place of the M61.
As I recall, USMC has always had praise for the 25mm cannon fire when deployed from Harriers…
With the fact that USMC LAVs carry the 25mm gun, I'm surprised they elected to keep the 20mm in the latest Cobras (AH-1Z) and that the Navy has stuck with the Phalanx in 20mm for as long as they have.


w dan April 9, 2013 at 11:00 am

sequester the F-35 totally…major waste of assets…it is mostly a make-work program for LM and hundreds of other companies, but NOT a good deal for America!!!


William_C1 April 10, 2013 at 1:22 am

Not even considering STOVL capability, where is a 5th gen alternative that can in service by 2020? I don't see Boeing or Northrop offering such an aircraft.


Upset April 9, 2013 at 11:20 am



Grahame July 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Name them. I don't know of any. There are aircraft on the drawing board but not yet. Drones such as global hawk carry a small load of weapons and have no capacity against a manned fighter. They would be smoked.


Infidel4LIFE April 9, 2013 at 11:41 am

Boeing must be very busy. F-15SE, now more Super Hornets. F-14 was a monster and we don't have that for CAP any longer. Is this SH the 2 seat version?


Roland April 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

IIt does look it needed a lot of test. Check if it can carry the load before placing it on action.


The Old Bear April 9, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Please see this link to a possible future: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-


Restore Palestine April 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm

The exterior looks like a modified copy of Su-34.

How about a picture of a working on-board oxygen generating system first. HaHa.


Nick T. April 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Bullshit. It's cost 1 billion a plane and dev costs will be half the country's debt at least. Wait, sorry. Those figures are for a Lockheed aircraft.

But seriously, I like the looks of this new Hornet. The B and even C model '35 are still do damn expensive, even for a Navy project. Have this as an upgrade package while the budget gets back on is feet, while keeping the '35 on low rate production.


Tiger April 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Sorry, but I’m not overwhelmed by yet another F/A-18 trip to the Plastic surgeon. A botox shot, Liposuction & nose job And presto The Black Owl is jumping for joy. In any case, Lockmart or Boeing I’d worry that one day they both will be made useless by a lucky Sub driver. Both are not worth a damn without a deck to land on.


Restore Palestine April 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

The F-18s may be ugly compared to European, Russian and Chinese jets but they are far better than the pathetic F-35 both in terms of looks and usefulness.

I guess a lot of Americans like the F-35 partly because the plane is a reflection of the typical American – fat, overweight, ugly, mentally and physically slow.


STemplar April 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Arabian gulf.


Steven April 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm

I only think the Super Hornet only NEEDS The upgrade but the Conformal Fuel Tanks won't be necessary. Just think about it it will Decrease its top speed to Mach 1.6-1.0. Really? I think if you just add the EPE ENGINES without the CTF it would have greater speed about Mach 2.15. But it would be useful for its range increase. Also STOP SAYING BAD STUFF TO THIS PLANE REALLY? "If it doesn't work with the CTF then they would go for the rest of the upgrade with the EPE ENGINE . But overall it would make it a BETTER A2A and A2G Aircraft. Anyways "Go F/A-18F BABY"

("Did you Know" ) The F/A-18E/F and Rafale have the same top speeds? Mach 1.8


William_C1 April 10, 2013 at 4:00 am

The F/A-18 is limited to mach 1.8 or so by it's intake design. It's extremely rare for the F/A-18 or Rafale to be flying at near their maximum speed anyway. Same as it is for most fighters.


Ethan T. June 3, 2013 at 12:03 pm

No one has to say anything bad about the SH. Everyone KNOWS it. The SH has to fighter to hit mach 1.6 and again only with a fraction of fuel and almost now weapons. It has no climb rate. No stay time, not dash capability. It is an attack platform. The new AESA radars have an edge but the threats are progressing enough to negate that small advantage.The original Hornet maxed out at 1.8. Id love to know where you get your facts from. The SH will NEVER go any faster. The 414s extra power was canceled out by the extra weight and drag. The EA18G is a different story.


Gregg July 28, 2013 at 1:29 am

The CFTs add no drag to the airframe …


Greg August 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I think you have to chill out. These ruskies haven't flown the Hornet when they clearly say bad stuff. Pilots who fly it know it's the best platform as of now.


Jffourquet April 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Now give it thrust vectoring and super cruise.


Restore Palestine April 10, 2013 at 12:26 am




crackedlenses April 10, 2013 at 1:52 am

Arabian Gulf.


William_C1 April 10, 2013 at 1:58 am

Why do we keep saying Arabian Gulf? Does the Arabian Gulf bother Restore Palestine?


STemplar April 10, 2013 at 2:10 am

Oh yes.

orbit April 10, 2013 at 1:13 am
External Affairs April 10, 2013 at 8:59 am

Let's depart from a US/USN-centric view of things for just a moment (difficult as that may be).

These notional enhancements to the SH may also have been conceived because Boeing has foreign sales in mind. There are many who would like to buy the F-35, but may not be able to do so on cost grounds, or becasue the -35 is going to take longfer to mature and some countries can't wait that long to replace their again fighter fleets. So maybe Boeing thinks it can steal the march on LM and repreat some of the marketing success enjoyed by the F-16.

As to the enhancements, it would be interesting to see how much it will cost to outfit the SH with CFTs, new engines, an integral FLIR system, new cockpit displays, etc., etc. Is there a chance that this will eliminate the price differential with the F-35? One suposes that the buyer could conceivably take the new engines and shun the other enhancements. Might be necesary to counter Russian-built SU-35s and PRC J-11s, to say nothing of their respective stealth designs.


tiger August 3, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Buying US comes with too many strings. Look at Egypt & their F-16 Deal? Political entanglements make buying American a headache.


External Affairs April 10, 2013 at 8:59 am

There is already some concern over the kinematic performance of the SH versus the F-15SE as well as its European rivals – that latter of which will all eventually receive the Meteor BVR missile. How does the SH compete with that match-up? For a non-US buyer, the SH may be a bird-in-the hand, but it lacks the power of the F-15, the stealth of the -35, the super-manoueverability of the Typhoon and Rafale, and, for the financially-challenged, the cost-effectiveness of the Gripen E.

India was the first to be offered the SH with an 'international roadmap' for enhanced capability (i.e. Block III version with CFTs, etc.). Delhi has chosen the Rafale instead – partially becasue the French indicated their willingness to hand over the software codes and build some of the planes locally. But the IAF sure liked the Rafale's performance and apporeciated their long-standing relatiaonship with Dassault. The SH was likely cheaper, but there were other factors at play. The lesson here is that cut-throat competition rules in the international market.

Good luck with your 'new' design, Boeing. You'll need it.


Tiger April 11, 2013 at 11:44 am
Diente Negro April 11, 2013 at 11:50 am

The F-14 really didn't have much on the Hornet as a dogfighter. F-18s consistently waxed the big turkey in ACM. F-14 was big, fast, and had plenty of gas, making it a good fleet defender. As a WVR fighter it had a lot of flaws.


Mark April 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm

The F-14 wasn't a good fighter it was a good interceptor and a fleet defender. The F-14 was a popular aircraft just because of the blockbuster movie "Top Gun". The F-14 wasn't ment to be a DogFighter or air superiority fighter it was ment to be a Fleet Interceptor. The F-14 needed to many maitnance and it cost too much. But the Navy wanted to look for a replacement for the F-4 Phantom II. THE F-4 Phantom was A FIGHTER BOMBER INTERCEPTOR and the F-14 was a INTERCEPTOR fleet defender. That's why the navy needed the F-14 for intercepting and fleet defending. The Navy DOESN'T need a "Fleet Defender" anymore. We already have the technology to defend carriers that's why technology is changing. It's already the 21st century.


blight_ April 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm

"We already have the technology to defend carriers that's why technology is changing."

Something feels awfully circular about this.


ec98 April 20, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Both f-35 and f-18e/f/h, they all suck. I'll let the f-18G slide because something a little faster and more updated than the ea-6 was badly needed for navair EW. The A-12 boondogle wasn't nearly as bad as the f-35 is turning out to be. The AFX-(swingwing f/a-22) should have been pushed for right away. Well first the Navy should have stood in the way of and killed off JSF back in 1994 using MacNamara's universal fighter fiasco to remind everyone how JSF was a bad idea from the get go. Than the navy could have focused on the AFX with the engines, power, range and manuverability of the F-22 but also a payload and range bettering the lousy f-35! Bassically the Navy agreeing to JSF in the 90s was the start of a dark time for NavAir. Yes the great depression of the 21st century is also a factor, but AFX would've given the navy an F22 fleet defense fighter with maybe even better manuverabilty than stock F-22; it'd have f-15e leve or better attack avionics, and almost equal to A-6 bomb load and range! Now the Navy's in the doldrums! I don't know whether to be angry with LM for the mismanagement of the F-35 or feel sorry for them for winning the cursed JSF compitition!


Tovon April 21, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Pretty sad. Sweden can produce a better and cheaper plan than we can. Pehaps we should scrap the F-35 and buy some more F-22s instead as long as so much money is going into this anyway..


USS ENTERPRISE April 21, 2013 at 11:08 pm

It would be WAY to expensive to scrap the almost Trillion dollar F-35, and it will cost BILLIONS more to start up the F-22 factory line. Yes, I agree, we should have bought more F-22s, but the pentagonal-shaped building in Arlington, the house that is painted white, and the building with a large dome have all decided to stop making the F-22 at the 180 or so mark. Instead, we rather stupidly put all our chips into the F-35. Now, I can only imagine that you are talking about the Gripen. I think its important to note that the Gripen uses American technology. Yes, it is mostly their idea, but the engines and many systems on board are American built, so naturally it will be cheaper as they didn't have to come up with these systems in the first place.


bigchief April 30, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Still no arrested landings, over weight and slow. In concept JFS was a good idea, but we seem to always come up short, and the taxpayers get taken to the cleaners.


Ryan June 4, 2013 at 6:27 am

Is that R2D2 on the turtleback?


Brian B Mulholland July 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm

It's fine to see that an advanced IR capacity is available, but wouldn't it be better to delete the M-61 and stuff the IR pod's guts inside the aircraft? How many air-to-air gun kills has the Navy or Marine Corps had to make in recent years, anyway? Yes, I'm quite well aware of the mixed history that AA missiles had in Vietnam, but I can't imagine that big pod not being both anti-stealth and a huge source of drag. Given the proliferation of SU-30 variants, as well as other aircraft, would it be such a bad idea to spend some money on cleaning up the airframe and putting new engines in it? There are no announced plans to buy Meteor missiles, which might permit the use of that big IR pod in contested air to some good purpose. There are announced plans for an AIM-9X block III, to try and duplicate the capacity of the UK ASRAAM (why not re-invent an easily available wheel), which is a concession that we're not where we want and need to be for air-air. …. put the gun in the pod, and might as well make it that 25 mm weapon.


Dakota August 9, 2013 at 12:50 am

Well of course it has to have stealth to even think about calling it a Fifth-Gen fighter. It's just we need to action IF we want to compete with Russia and China. I totally agree with the next version of the F/A-18 super hornet series they are very classy jets. I know just feel bad for Lockheed Martin at the moment first the F-22 had to be stopped now the F-35 may be too. They are excellent Fighter Jets and are ahead of their time. They actually beat Russia and China to the Fifth-Generation. But our government doesn't seem to side with future fighter pilots now do they? Well i just hope we get a decent shipment of worthy jets in our military.


Al-Schneider August 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Not sure if people will value my opine but here goes: I grew up Grumman, my dad was an air frame engineer for Grumman for 25 of his 30 years..the bug took out the cat purely by politics not because it was a better build….Hats off to Boeing but its time to let someone else have a shot. – the best of luck 35 the 18 had its day and its fading……


Steven Jaime August 17, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Upgrade the F-18E/F NOW PLEASEEE!


Peter August 18, 2013 at 9:53 am

I'm well aware that my knowledge seems to be very limited compared to most posters on here, but with that in mind, what bothers me is that all the emphasis seems to be on the carriers strike abilities and completely ignoring it's defence. Neither the F-35 or any upgrade to the F-18 is looking like it adresses this aspect.
So, strike abilities are impressive with stealth and all the rest of it. But what happens when a carrier is lost? Does that immediately trigger a nuclear reaction or what? I would say you need a modernised F-14. Long range, long time on station and inpressive air-to-air and air-to-(sub)surface capabilities. Or, just maybe, several UK D type destroyers and Astute class subs accompanying each carrier group?
If you can't reliably defend the carriers then the whole argument becomes pointless.


Jale September 12, 2013 at 8:36 am

F-14 sucks worst aircraft Ever……


tiger September 12, 2013 at 11:59 am

May the Ghost of "Goose" haunt your house.

Grumman Cats rule!!!!!!!!! Anytime Baby……..


Blachinator September 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm

I think both companies aren't listening to military, from what the Admiral has stated. Honestly, we need a new fighter, this is true. Why not an interchangeable fighter?
A fighter aircraft that with swapping parts it swaps roles. a Set for Stealth, for Air Superiority, for Ground Support, and Recon? Almost like A Real Life LEGO set.


mike October 1, 2013 at 7:43 pm

check out this if you want to know what the new f-18 has http://www.boeing.com/AeroIndia2011/pdf/Aero_Indi


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Big-Dean April 8, 2013 at 6:22 pm
NavyGuy2007 April 10, 2013 at 11:25 am

The -35C is ment to work with the Super Hornets. Remember, in order to get Max stealth from the JSF it cant cary any external stores which severly limits its weapons load.


blight_ April 10, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I mean legacy Hornets.

Sigh, this would've been easier if Hornets were Hornets and Super Hornets were something else.


William_C1 April 11, 2013 at 2:12 am

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney went as far as to order the F-14 tooling destroyed after all F-14D production and rebuilds had ended, despite the objections of the Navy and Grumman. Politics were certainly involved to some degree. Those in favor of the Super Tomcat argued that significant improvements were/could be made in the way of reducing maintenance requirements and operating costs. Yet I doubt it could be made comparable to the Super Hornet in that area.

Perhaps politics is keeping the USN committed to their buy at the moment, but this is not the case with the USAF and USMC. The USAF's plan for tactical aircraft is built around the F-35A and there is no STOVL alternative to the F-35B on the market or on the horizon.

The Navy is in a better short-term position due to the Super Hornet, but without the F-35C their need for a new fighter becomes that much more urgent. In the current budget/political environment I highly doubt the money "saved" by cutting the F-35C would be directed towards getting F/A-XX sooner.

The actions of a few customers, in part looking to drive the cost of any F-35 purchase down, hardly spells the doom of the entire program. If it can be kept on track and steadily move forward as it has been doing in recent months, there is a high chance they will reselect the F-35. The global economy and debt crisis hasn't helped matters, but it would be foolish to cancel the entire program based on that.

You have the first hand experience, but I doubt all of these people voicing concerns and criticism about the Super Hornet 10 years ago all vanished or fell in love with the aircraft.

The performance metrics used by Lockheed make comparisons of aerodynamic performance difficult, yet the Super Hornet isn't known for its high and fast performance. Unless Lockheed totally botches the current issues with transonic buffeting, the F-35C should match or exceed what the F/A-18 can do in this area.

Stealth isn't an accessory, even against future radar developments the law of physics still apply. Stealth can't be "defeated" but it could indeed be diminished. However a non-LO airframe will still be detected and tracked before a LO or VLO airframe.

IR and UV sensors are short ranged in comparison to radar, yet it's good to see the Navy investing in these sort of counter-measures. I wasn't aware of missile designers looking at UV detection for terminal guidance but that would be a counter to the DIRCM entering service and in development that can defeat IIR guidance.


William_C1 April 11, 2013 at 2:13 am

The designation probably should have been F/A-24.


NavyGuy2007 April 11, 2013 at 10:31 am

Ahh Miss understood ya there! Its all good brotha!


BlackOwl18E April 12, 2013 at 2:29 am

You keep giving me nothing but your opinion and what you think, which isn't good enough for me. I'm done with this thread.


William_C1 April 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm

You're taking this too personally. We both have our opinions and use facts when they are available. The Super Tomcat supporters indeed made that argument, although I'll grant you that they were probably overly optimistic in that area.


BlackOwl18E April 14, 2013 at 11:26 pm

I'm not taking this personally. You've given me your opinion and no facts so I'm leaving. Simple as that. See ya on another thread.


BlackOwl18E July 16, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Okay, seriously why are my previous posts getting deleted?


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