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'Fighting Checkmates' Soar With Super Hornet

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050406-07
Release Date: 4/6/2005 1:43:00 PM

By Journalist Seaman Riza Wenthe, Naval Media Center FSD Norfolk

NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA, Va. (NNS) -- The "Fighting Checkmates" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211 arrived at Naval Air Station Oceana April 1 after seven months of training at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., with their new aircraft.

The squadron's aging F-14 Tomcats were replaced by the F/A-18E/F, making Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211 the U.S. Atlantic Fleet's first fully deployable Super Hornet squadron. In training, the crews learned to fly and maintain the new aircraft, which is more advanced than its predecessor.

Cmdr. Robert Geis, the squadron's executive officer and weapons systems officer, said the Super Hornet is a welcome change for the aviators.

"This new jet is state-of-the-art," he said. "It's brand-new. Everything is digital and everything works. It's got super radar, air-to-air and air-to-ground. It carries every weapon in the inventory, and it works - everything works. It's just great."

VFA-211 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Michael Whetstone echoed Geis' positive thoughts on the aircraft.

"They finally developed a plane that took into account the short turn-around cycle that we have on the ship to get things maintained and fixed," said Whetstone. "And they actually put a lot of thought into making that job easier for the maintainer. That, actually, from my point of view, is the best thing about this airplane...that it is maintenance-friendly as well as aviator-friendly."

Senior Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Vaughn Ransom, VFA-211 maintenance leading chief petty officer, emphasized the improved quality of life his Sailors will enjoy with the Super Hornet.

"A lot of it has to do with the general maintenance," said Ransom. "The trouble-shooting procedure is a lot easier to follow with the new system that they have on computer. With the Tomcat, it could [take] up to 30 man-hours per flight hour. With the Super Hornet, it's somewhere around four man-hours per flight hour."

Whetstone added that the Super Hornet brings a lot of power to the Navy's air forces.

"With today's threats - the technology that's out there - I think in order for the Navy to continue to be on the forefront, they need to try to get a hold of and maintain the greatest technology that is out there," Whetstone said. "That requirement is met by the Super Hornet without a doubt. It brings a lot to the fight."

According to the plane's manufacturers, the Super Hornet is 25 percent bigger than the F/A-18C/D Hornet. The jet also has better maneuverability, ease of flying and lands at slower speeds. Additionally, it has two more weapons stations, allowing for an increased mix of bombs and rockets - up to 17,750 pounds.

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