F/A-18E/F "Super Hornet"
On September 28, 2010, Boeing announced it had been awarded a new multi-year procurement contract valued at $5.297 billion from the U.S. Navy for 124 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft. Under the terms of the agreement, Boeing is to deliver 66 Super Hornets and 58 Growlers to the Navy from 2012 through 2015.
The multi-mission F/A-18E/F "Super Hornet" strike fighter is an upgrade of the combat-proven night strike F/A-18C/D. The Super Hornet will provide the battle group commander with a platform that has range, endurance, and ordnance carriage capabilities comparable to the A-6 which have been retired.
The F/A-18E/F aircraft are 4.2 feet longer than earlier Hornets, have a 25% larger wing area, and carry 33% more internal fuel which will effectively increase mission range by 41% and endurance by 50%. The Super Hornet also incorporates two additional weapon stations. This allows for increased payload flexibility by mixing and matching air-to-air and/or air-to-ground ordnance. The aircraft can also carry the complete complement of "smart" weapons, including the newest joint weapons such as JDAM and JSOW.
The Super Hornet can carry approximately 17,750 pounds (8,032 kg) of external load on eleven stations. It has an all-weather air-to-air radar and a control system for accurate delivery of conventional or guided weapons. There are two wing tip stations, four inboard wing stations for fuel tanks or air-to-ground weapons, two nacelle fuselage stations for Sparrows or sensor pods, and one centerline station for fuel or air-to-ground weapons. An internal 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon is mounted in the nose.
Carrier recovery payload is increased to 9,000 pounds, and its engine thrust from 36,000 pounds to 44,000 pounds utilizing two General Electric F414 turbo-fan engines. Although the more recent F/A-18C/D aircraft have incorporated a modicum of low observables technology, the F/A-18E/F was designed from the outset to optimize this and other survivability enhancements.
The Hughes Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infra-Red (ATFLIR), the baseline infrared system for the F/A-18 E/F, will also be deployed on earlier model F/A-18s. The Hughes pod features both navigation and infrared targeting systems, incorporating third generation mid-wave infrared (MWIR) staring focal plane technology.
Although 41% interdiction mission range increase may be the most notable F/A-18E/F improvement, the ability to recover aboard with optimal reserve fuel and a load of precision strike weapons, is of equal importance to the battle group commander. The growth potential of the F/A-18E/F is more important to allow flexible employment strategies in future years. If an electronically scanned array antenna or another installation-sensitive sensor or weapon system becomes available, the F/A-18E/F has the space, power and cooling to accommodate it. Although the more recent F/A-18C/D aircraft have incorporated a modicum of low observables technology, the F/A-18E/F was designed from the outset to optimize this and other survivability enhancements. The all-F/A-18C/D/E/F air wing brings an increase in capability to the carrier battle group while ensuring the potential to take advantage of technological advances for years to come.
Features of the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet:
- 90% Common F/A-18C/D Avionics: Avionics and software have a 90 percent
commonality with current F/A-18C/Ds. However, the F/A-18E/F cockpit features a
touch-sensitive, upfront control display; a larger, liquid crystal multipurpose color
display; and a new engine fuel display.
- 34 in. Fuselage Extension: The fuselage is slightly longer - the result of a
- Two Additional Multi-Mission Weapons Stations: Super Hornet has two additional
weapons stations, bringing the total to 11. For aircraft carrier operations, about three
times more payload can be brought back to the ship.
- 25% Larger Wing: A full 25 percent bigger than its predecessor, Super Hornet has
nearly half as many parts.
- 35% Higher Thrust Engines: Increased engine power comes from the F414-GE-400, an
advanced derivative of the Hornet's current F404 engine family. The F414 produces 35
percent more thrust and improves overall mission performance. Enlarged air inlets provide
increased airflow to the engines.
- 33% Additional Internal Fuel: Structural changes to the airframe increase
internal fuel capacity by 3,600 pounds, or about 33 percent. This extends the Hornet's
mission radius by up to 40 percent.
NASA's involvement with the F/A-18E/F began in the early stages of the proposed aircraft development when the Office of the Secretary of Defense became concerned with range estimates for the vehicle. A three-member NASA/DOD/industry team conducted an independent review of fighter-escort mission range estimates in April 1992. A NASA Langley engineer was a member of this team. Favorable results from this review were critical to the airplane program proceeding forward to the Defense Acquisition Board for funding advocacy.
A series of tests in a Langley wind tunnel (8-Foot Transonic) the following month indicated that a spoiler on the leading-edge extension, designed to improve stability at high angles of attack* and reduce aerodynamic buffeting of the vertical tails, caused unacceptable reductions in maximum lift. As a result of these tests, a reassessment of the leading edge extension design was begun.
Redesigning the leading edge extension was the job of a 15-member national team of experts, which included three Langley engineers. This team was active through the first six months of 1993. Initially the team explored small modifications to the size and shape of the extension to regain the required lift and improve stability. Subsequent wind tunnel tests showed that this incremental approach would not be successful. Langley engineers then proposed more radical design options that, based on prior research with other configurations, would potentially satisfy these requirements. Favorable wind tunnel results led to further refinement of one of the design options and a configuration that met all design goals. This configuration is the wing leading edge extension on the production F/A-18E/F.
Roll-out of the first Super Hornet occurred in September 1995, and it flew for the first time in November 1995, ahead of schedule and nearly 1,000 pounds under specified weight. In January 1997, the Super Hornet successfully conducted its initial sea trials on board the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CVN 74).
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