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

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.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • chris

    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

      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_

        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

          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_

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

          • blight_

            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).

          • NavyGuy2007

            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_

            I mean legacy Hornets.

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

          • William_C1

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

          • NavyGuy2007

            Ahh Miss understood ya there! Its all good brotha!

    • Grahame

      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

    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

      Super duper Hornet.

      • Brandon

        LoL That is the only logical choice.

    • Some Dude

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

    • BlackOwl18E

      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

      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

        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

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

  • Lance

    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

      super tomcat?

    • Weaponhead

      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
    • Guest

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

      • KnowsAboutIt

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

    • sprhrntcdr

      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

    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
      • Josh

        There is no information stated above that this is stealth.

        • Aimhigh

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

        • Ben

          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

            Where can I find this video?

        • Charley A

          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

      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.

  • BlackOwl18E

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

    • Big-Dean

      too funny :-D

    • Restore Palestine

      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

        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

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

      • Infidel4LIFE

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

    • wpnexp

      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

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

      • Yur A Dumbass

        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.

  • 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

      Comes standard from the dealer with bubble canopy too.

    • William_C1

      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

        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

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

  • STemplar

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

    • Josh

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

  • SlapStick

    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

      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

        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

      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

    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

      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

      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

    A desperate attempt to maintain manned aircraft.

  • Nadnerbus

    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

      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

    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

      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

        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

          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

          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

          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

            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.

          • BlackOwl18E

            Okay, seriously why are my previous posts getting deleted?

  • M Peterson

    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.

    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

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

      • Grahame

        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

      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

    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

      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

    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

      “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

    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

    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

      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


    • Grahame

      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

    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

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

  • The Old Bear

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

    • Restore Palestine

      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.

      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

    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

      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

        Arabian gulf.

  • Steven

    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

      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.

      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

        The CFTs add no drag to the airframe …

    • Greg

      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

    Now give it thrust vectoring and super cruise.

    • Restore Palestine



      • crackedlenses

        Arabian Gulf.

        • William_C1

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

          • STemplar

            Oh yes.

  • External Affairs

    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

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

  • External Affairs

    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
  • Diente Negro

    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

      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_

        “We already have the technology to defend carriers that’s why technology is changing.”

        Something feels awfully circular about this.

  • ec98

    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

    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..


      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

    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

    Is that R2D2 on the turtleback?

  • Brian B Mulholland

    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

    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

    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……

  • Upgrade the F-18E/F NOW PLEASEEE!

  • Peter

    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

      F-14 sucks worst aircraft Ever……

      • tiger

        May the Ghost of “Goose” haunt your house.

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

  • Blachinator

    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

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

  • Hello there! I simply want to give you a big thumbs up for your excellent
    information you have got right here on this post. I am coming back to your site for more

  • dogiit

    I just read a web page That said the Soviet union’s flanker more or less Will out maneuver the FA 18 in a dogfight.as far as the F35 Goes i do not like the single engine concept For aircraft fighter