Single-Seat Fighters: A Question Of Survivability
AUTHOR Major Joseph A. Papay, USMC
SUBJECT AREA - Aviation
TITLE: SINGLE-SEAT FIGHTERS: A QUESTION OF SURVIVABILITY
I. Purpose: To educate the reader on the advantages of a
single- versus dual-seat fighter, with emphasis on survivability
and lethality of the F/A-18 Hornet
II. Problem: The need for a replacement for the aging F-4 Phantom
was overshadowed by the hype of the manufacturer's concept and
design, and the Navy's attempt to solve the berthing problems
aboard ship. The single-seat mentality of a few overwhelmed the
cries of the tactically proficient, and convinced those in power
that the advances in technology will counter the advantages of the
dual -seat fighters. The end result is a fleet of single-seat
fighters that are not as offensive or survivable as the same
III. DATA: The military's infatuation with the marvels of
technology is continuously displayed by the plethoria of new
hardware and software purchased every year. Marine aviation has
recently completed a major purchase of 174 single-seat Hornets to
replace the aging F-4 Phantom. The F/A-18 Hornet was to meet the
multi-role requirements of the Marine Corps and also attack the
berthing problems aboard ship. Technology was to provide the
silver bullet. Overall, modern technology was to absorb the
increased workload that was the task of the second crewman.
Unfortunately, the cloud of enthusiasm for the return to the
single-seat design disreguarded the advances that would reshape
the battlefield that this single-seat fighter would face. The
development and employment of third and fourth generation SAM's
and AAA systems integrated into a sophfisticated command and
control system would drastically increase the lethality of the
threats' integrated air defense system. Therefore, reducing the
survivability of the penetrating Hornet due to the increased
workload on the weakest link in the Hornet's design, the pilot.
IV. Conclusion: In the case of the F/A-18 Hornet, the dual-seat
design, integrated with today's modern technology, has an
significant advantage over the single-seat Hornet in the areas of
mission success and survivability.
V. Recommendations: That the Marine Corps take active steps to
increase the survivability of the F/A-18 Hornet and other
follow-on aircraft with a dual-seat design.
SINGLE-SEAT FIGHTERS: A QUESTION OF SURVIVABILITY
Survivability of our warfighting assets has
always been a priority of our Marine Corps Leaders.
Today, the fiscal battle cry has not changed. In fact,
it has been emphasized with such resolve that even the
Marine Private is aware of his responsibilities to
safeguard and maintain his Marine Corps assets.
In the case of Marine Aviation, how survivable are
these assets? In particular, our fighter assets, now
that we have adopted the single-seat design concept of
the F/A-18 Hornet.
Marine Corps fighters have for decades been tasked
to assume a multi-role mission. This is due to the
limited number of assets available and the large
variety of missions that Marine aviation must support
The F/A-18 Hornet, the Marine Corps newest land
and carrier-based fighter, offers true multi-mission
capabilities. It is both an air-to-air fighter and a
ground attack aircraft with a 16,000-pound payload and
Mach 1.7 top speed.1
With the F-4 Phantom reaching the end of its
operational life, a replacement was required. The Navy
as well as the Marine Corps, looked at the F-16 and
F/A-18 as possible replacements, In the end, the
single-seat F/A-18 Hornet won out.
Based on the selection of the single-seat Hornet,
the Marine Corps will replace all twelve squadrons of
aging dual-seat F-4 Phantoms on both east and west
coasts; a total buy of approximately 174 single-seat
The mission of the single-seat Hornet will not
change from that of the dual-seat Phantom. It will be
tasked in the fighter role to provide air superiority
within the AOA and to provide fighter escort to attack
aircraft, and assault transports. It will also provide
airborne surveillance to augment the Integrated Air
Defense System of the Marine Air Ground Task Force
(MAGTF) in an Anti-Air Warfare role.3
In the Attack role, the single-seat Hornet will
assume the missions of Close Air Support (CAS), Deep
Air Support (DAS), and Battlefield Air Interdiction
(BAI) missions in order to attack and destroy enemy
personnel and equipment within and outside the A0A4.
Associated with these mission requirements is the
additional operational capability that the Marine Corps
requires of its multi-role fighters. That being that
the Single-seat Hornet must be able to execute all its
missions in both day and night conditions to include an
The F/A-18, like the F-4 Phantom, was designed to
do just that. The primary difference though was that
the Phantom was designed as a Dual-Seat fighter
equipped with 1960 technology, while the Hornet using
1970 technology adopted the mind set that this advanced
technology would eliminate the need for the second
The Advanced Technology and Human Factor design
that went into the F/A-18 Hornet cockpit has been
optimized for a one-man operation in all air-to-air and
air-to-ground modes. The advanced controls and
displays using cathode ray tubes (CRTs) for computer
generated flight and weapon system information allow a
highly trained aviator to execute and accomplish his
Since June 82', we have witnessed the overwhelming
capabilities of this new technology embodied within the
single-seat Hornet. Once a well trained pilot has
strapped on this multi-role fighter he has displayed
the aircraft capabilities and his peacetime proficiency
with amazing success. The advantages that are afforded
the Hornet over the Phantom are truly noteworthy. But
is it survivable?
Along with the technological advances afforded to
U.S. aviation, comes the advance weapon systems that
will shape today's battlefield. The Threat has also
modernized its air defense systems, incorporating
modern technology into the detection, identification,
and destruction of hostile aircraft through the
employment of third and fourth generation AAA and
Previous Surface-to-Air threat environments
generally left someplace to fly. Today's integrated
Air Defense environments actually challenge the very
nature of tactical airpower resulting in more
pre-emptive philosophies; more reliance on night and in
weather flying and, has required today's aircraft to be
able to maneuver with heavy loads in order to increase
their survivability on this modern day battlefield.8
The accuracy and lethality of these current
systems far exceed the performance we last encountered
in Southeast Asia. Considering that, at its strongest
point, North Vietnam had over 200 prepared SA-2 sites
and 30 active SAM battalions which included about 200
launchers. Out of this, from 1962 -1975, the United
States lost approximately 200 aircraft. Fifteen
percent of our aircraft were loss due to SAMs,
seventy-nine percent to AAA and six percent to MIGs.
The threats encountered were of the first and second
Unlike Vietnam, today's fighters will be facing
over 1800 ready surface-to-air missiles and approx.
1100 light and heavy machine guns, assigned to a Soviet
Division Air Defense, occupying an area of
approximately 30 Km square.10
As for the aircrews survivability, studies have
shown that although the single-seat Hornet is superior
to its predecessor in capabilities and reliability, the
weak-link is found in the one man concept and that in
the majority of scenarios, a well trained, dual-seat
Hornet would be more survivable on the modern day
To quantify the argument of possible advantages of
the dual-seat over the single-seat Hornet, an analysis
In 1985, the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) was
tasked by OP-50 to examine the issue of single versus
dual seats with regard to their use in the F/A-18
The initial buy of single-seat F/A-18s was based
on the suspected penalty for an additional crewman in
the cockpit, those being:
* Reduced Fuel Capacity
* Increased Carrier-habitability Problems
In response, analysts performed an extensive
literature search on the subject. It was determined
that the annual maintenance costs for the two seat
Hornet would be $14 thousand higher than the single
seater. It would also cost an additional one time
developmental cost of $800,000 per two seat aircraft.12
The effect of additional squadron personnel on
carrier habitability was worth noting, but it does not
seem to be significant enough to influence policy
The fact that the two seat Hornet carried 102
gallons less than the single seater14 was of concern.
However, analysis has determined that in identical
scenarios, the dual-seat Hornet burned less fuel than
the single-seater.15 Once again chipping away at the
Phase two was to determine the benefits, if any,
provided by the presence of a second crewman. The
decision was made to conduct a one- versus two-seat
cockpit flight simulation.
The simulation took place at the Manned Air Combat
Simulator facility operated by McDonnell Aircraft
Company. Each mission would be flown in a low, medium,
and high threat environment with the aim of increasing
the aircrews workload.16
To determine the degree of impact that the second
crewman would have on the mission, five primary mission
areas17 were singled out:
* Day Strike
* Strike Escort
* Close Air Support (CAS)
* Night Strike
* Adverse Weather
The results concluded that in the Night Strike
and Adverse Weather missions the second crewman was
able to relieve the pilot workload by providing
dedicated attention to sensor operations18.
The Escort and CAS missions also favored the
dual-seat crew since these missions are highly
dependant on visual contacts.19
The Day Strike missions greatly favored the
dual-seat crew in the low and medium threat scenario by
having a higher survival rate and delivery
effectiveness than the single-seat hornet. The high
threat day strike scenario favored the dual-seat hornet
for survivability but scored the single seat crew with
a higher delivery effectiveness.20
Overall the dual-seat crews were almost twice as
survivable as the single-seat crews with a ranking of
51 to 27; while the single seat crews had a slight
advantage in delivery effectiveness, with a rank of 48
to 30. This result confirms that there was an exchange
of survivability for effectiveness while in the
delivery phase for the single-seat Hornet21.
To further determine specific advantages of the
dual crew concept, five sub-mission areas were measured
within each of the primary missions investigated.
These factors were:
* Avoidance to Ground Impact
* Delivery Timeliness
* Delivery Effectiveness
* Survivability to the Ground Threat
* Survivability to the Air Threat
Ground Impact: During the simulation, it was possible
for crews to suffer ground impacts. While there was no
kill removal for ground impact, it was still a matter
of interest in the analysis. The number of ground
impacts was tabulated and examined to see if there was
a difference between the single-seat crews and the
dual-seat crews. No significant difference was
Weapon Delivery Timeliness / Effectiveness: The weapon
delivery analysis focused on the aircrews ability to
arrive on target on time and with a high degree of
effectiveness. The optimum score required bombs to be
dropped on or near the target, with a hit or a near
hit, within 30 seconds of the time-on-target.
Data proved that the dual-seat crews were more
timely using sensors more frequently. For sensor
acquisitions, the dual-seat Hornets acquired their
targets at a 33% longer average range than the
single-seat crews. However, the single-seat crews were
slightly more effective in their weapons delivery.23
A limitation of this data is that there was no
kill removal prior to the target area, or within the
target area. Since there was no kill removal, there is
no data to determine the number of missions completed
by either the single or dual-seat fighter.
Survivability to the Ground Threat: The performance
against the ground threat was evaluated in great
detail. The simulated ground threat24 consisted of the
Each aircrew had the ability to employ aircraft
maneuvering, deceptive electronic countermeasures, and
chaff and flare employment. They also had the option
to utilize High Speed Anti Radiation Missiles (HARMS)
in most missions to neutralize / destroy threat sites.
Overall, the dual-seat fighter removed 6% more threats
with HARM than the single-seat crews25.
The overall comparison of survivability against
the ground threats showed that, in 14 of the 15
scenarios, the dual seat aircraft were more survivable
on the average than the single-seat aircraft26.
Survivability to the Air Threat: The simulation set
out to analyze the aspects of performance, including
survivability of the aircrews. Both the single and
dual seat Hornets were configured with AIM-7F radar
guided missiles and AIM-9L heat seeking missiles.
The threat aircraft were simulated MIG-23 and MIG-25
aircraft, carrying short range (SRM) and medium range
missiles (MRM) similar to the AIM-9L and AIM-7F
missiles, respectively. Performance against the SRMs
and MRMs were evaluated separately to see if one type
of crew performed better than the other against
different types of Air-to-Air missiles.
The overall results of the interactions of the
single and dual-seat Hornets against the air threat
favored the dual-seat Hornet both for survivability and
lethality. It was found, for example, that the
dual-seat crews were able to defeat a higher percentage
of Short Range Missiles fired at them than the
single-seat crews. Single-beat Hornets were 68% more
likely to be hit per IR missile fired than the
The lethality factor was also influenced by the
dual-seat concept in that the dual-seat crews had a
higher exchange ratio than the single-seat crews
against the given threat28. Of note also was the fact
that the dual-seat Hornets fired fewer missiles than
the single-seat Hornets. Overall, the single seat
fighter fired 30 missiles to 20 from the two-seat
Based on the requirements, doctrine and the
research data, the determination of the survivability
factor that a dual-seat fighter offers is significant.
Overall, the dual-seat Hornet, exhibits an increase in
survivability and lethality over the single-seat
The Hornet has for the first time not been the
weak link in the Air Battle. In the evolution of Air
Power the weak link has always been attributed to a
piece of hardware. It began with a lack of power &
maneuverability which later than moved to the
restricted weapons envelopes.
Through advances in technology the restricted
envelopes for weapon delivery is almost non-existent.
The design and development of the F/A-18 Hornet makes
it the most advanced fighter in the world. But not the
most survivable. The pilot for the first time is the
weak link in this war fighting package. For the first
time, the pilot is unable to exploit all the
capabilities of the Hornet due to the workload level.
Based on my twelve years of flying fighters, I
believe the single-seat Hornet is more than capable of
performing its mission, but only in a peacetime
environment. The wartime variables that greatly
influence the survivability and success of those
missions are not present in our daily peacetime
exercises. This therefore, builds a false sense of
security into the already over rated single-seat
The development and designs of our modern aircraft
should not be overshadowed by the sales pitch of the
manufacturer. Instead, it should be driven by the
lethality and survivability of the item. In fact, the
Dual-Seat, F/A-18 integrated with today's modern
technology, drastically increases the survivability of
our Marine Corps Fighters on the modern battlefield.
1NATOPS Flight Manual, F/A-18A/B, A1-F18AC-NFM-000, 1
December 85, Chapter 1, p. 1-3.
2Smith, K.A., LtGen, USMC, "An Assessment of Marine
Aviation," Marine Corps Gazette (May 1988), p.43.
3Smith, K.A.,LtGen, p. 43.
4U.S. Marine Corps, OH-2: The Marine Air-Ground Task
Force, March 1987, p. 7-8.
5NATOPS, p. 1-3.
6McDonnell Douglas, F/A-18 Hornet Crew Station, Section
7Taylor, John, Jane's Weapons Systems 1988, Section on
the Soviet Union.
8General Dynamics, Fighter Weapons Symposium 88, Book
1, Fighters, p. 65.
9General Dynamics, Fighter Weapons Symposium 88, Book
3, Surface-to-Air Threat, p. 5, 9.
10U.S Army, FM 100-2-3, The Soviet Army (July 1984).
11CNA, CRM 86-105, Single- versus Dual-Seat Crew
Simulation Results: Measures of Mission Success, (July
1986) p. 19.
12CNA, CRM 86-88, Dual-Seat F/A-18 Cost and Personnel
Issues, (April 1986), p. 12.
13CNA, CRM 86-88, p. 13.
14NATOPS, p. 1-17, 1-103.
15CNA, 86-1802, F/A-18 Single- Versus Dual-Seat Crew
Simulation Results: Project Briefing, (September 1986),
16CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 1.
17CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 1.
18CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 19, 21.
19CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 18, 21.
20CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 23.
21CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 23.
22CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 6.
23CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 5.
24CNA, CRM 86-105, p4 3.
25CNA, CRM 86-1802, p. 33.
26CNA, CRM 86-105, p 4.
27CNA, CRM 86-1802, p. 17.
28CNA, CRM 86-105, p. 5.
29CNA, 86-101, F/A-18 Single- Versus Dual-Seat Crew
Simulation Results: Escort Mission Analysis, (August
1986), p. 23.
1. CNA, CRM 86-88, Dual-Seat F/A-18 Cost and Personnel
Issues, (April 1986).
2. CNA, CRM 86-97, F/A-18 Single- Versus Dual-Seat
Crew Simulation Results: Mission Design, Facility
Description, and Aircrews, (August 1986).
3. CNA, 86-101, F/A-18 Single- Versus Dual-Seat Crew
Simulation Results: Escort Mission Analysis, (August
4. CNA, CRM 86-105, Single- versus Dual-Seat Crew
Simulation Results: Measures of Mission Success, (July
5. CNA, 86-1802, F/A-18 Single- Versus Dual-Seat Crew
Simulation Results: Project Briefing, (September 1986).
6. General Dynamics, Fighter Weapons Symposium 88,
Book 1: Fighters.
7. General Dynamics, Fighter Weapons Symposium 88,
Book 3: Surface-to-Air Threat.
8. Hughes Aircraft Company, AFAL-TR-76-79, Crew Size
Evaluation for Tactical All-Weather Strike Aircraft,
9. Karnow, Stanley, Vietnam: A History, (1983).
10. McDonnell Douglas, F/A-18 Hornet Crew Station,
11. U.S. Marine Corps, OH-2: The Marine Air-Ground
Task Force, March 1987.
12. Mlddleton, Drew, Air War- Vietnam, (1978).
13. NATOPS Flight Manual, F/A-18A/B, A1-F18AC-NFM-000,
1 December 85, Chapter 1.
14. Sherrod, Robert, History of Marine Corps Aviation
in World War Two, (1952).
15. Smith, K.A., LtGen, USMC, "An Assessment of Marine
Aviation," Marine Corps Gazette (May 1988).
16. Taylor, John, Jane's Weapons Systems 1988,
Section- Soviet Union.
17. U.S Army, FM 100-2-3, The Soviet Army (July 1984).
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