The Mighty Super Hornet: Specifications, Operations and Armament

Evolved from the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, these aircraft are currently in service with the armed forces of the United States, Australia, and Kuwait.

The Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet constitute a series of advanced, supersonic, twin-engine, carrier-capable, multirole fighter aircraft. Evolved from the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, these aircraft are currently in service with the armed forces of the United States, Australia, and Kuwait. The F/A-18E, a single-seat variant, and the F/A-18F, a tandem-seat variant, represent larger and more sophisticated versions of the earlier F/A-18C and D Hornet models.

Equipped with an internal 20mm M61A2 rotary cannon, the Super Hornet possesses the capability to carry a diverse array of weapons, including air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface munitions. This versatility makes it a formidable platform for a wide range of mission requirements. To enhance its operational range, the Super Hornet can carry additional fuel in up to five external fuel tanks. Furthermore, the aircraft can be configured as an airborne tanker by incorporating an external air-to-air refueling system.

The Super Hornet stands as a modern and adaptable multirole fighter, showcasing advancements over its predecessor. Its deployment on aircraft carriers underscores its carrier-capable design, further expanding its operational versatility. With its combination of firepower, agility, and extended range capabilities, the F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet series remains a critical asset in the arsenals of the nations utilizing this formidable platform.

Specifications:

The Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet represent a significant leap forward from the original Hornet, with the Super Hornet being about 20% larger and boasting improvements in various aspects. This aircraft is approximately 7,000 lb (3,200 kg) heavier when empty and 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) heavier at its maximum weight compared to the legacy Hornet. It carries 33% more internal fuel, resulting in a 41% increase in mission range and a 50% boost in endurance compared to its predecessor. Despite its increased capabilities, the Super Hornet’s empty weight is about 11,000 lb (5,000 kg) less than the F-14 Tomcat it replaced, although it approaches, but doesn’t quite match, the F-14’s payload and range.

One notable feature of the Super Hornet is its capacity to serve as a tactical airborne tanker. Equipped with an aerial refueling system (ARS) or “buddy store,” it can refuel other aircraft in-flight, fulfilling a role that the Navy had lost with the retirement of the KA-6D and Lockheed S-3B Viking tankers. The ARS includes an external 330 US gal (1,200 L) tank with a hose reel on the centerline, along with four external 480 US gal (1,800 L) tanks and internal tanks, providing a total of 29,000 lb (13,000 kg) of fuel on the aircraft.

In terms of avionics, the Super Hornet initially had a 90% commonality with the F/A-18C/D fleet. However, differences include an up-front touchscreen control display, a large multipurpose color liquid-crystal display, and a fuel display. The Super Hornet features a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire system and a digital flight-control system capable of detecting and correcting for battle damage. The radar systems evolved from the APG-73 radar to the more advanced AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) in later models.

Block II Super Hornets are equipped with the AN/APG-79 AESA radar, enabling simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks, as well as providing high-quality ground mapping at extended standoff ranges. The AESA radar enhances target detection, including smaller targets such as inbound missiles, and extends the tracking range for air targets beyond the reach of the aircraft’s air-to-air missiles. Additionally, the Super Hornet has been upgraded with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), enhancing situational awareness and targeting capabilities.

Armaments:

The F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet, derived from the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, stand as advanced, carrier-capable, multirole fighter aircraft utilized by the armed forces of the U.S., Australia, and Kuwait. The Super Hornet series includes a single-seat variant (F/A-18E) and a tandem-seat variant (F/A-18F), both representing larger and more advanced iterations of the earlier F/A-18C and D Hornet models.

Distinguishing itself with a substantial 20% increase in size, the Super Hornet is approximately 7,000 lb (3,200 kg) heavier when empty and 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) heavier at its maximum weight compared to the legacy Hornet. This enhanced aircraft carries 33% more internal fuel, resulting in a remarkable 41% increase in mission range and a 50% boost in endurance compared to its predecessor. Despite its increased capabilities, the Super Hornet’s empty weight is about 11,000 lb (5,000 kg) less than the F-14 Tomcat it replaced, although it approaches, but doesn’t quite match, the F-14’s payload and range.

A notable feature of the Super Hornet is its capability to serve as a tactical airborne tanker, addressing a role lost with the retirement of the KA-6D and Lockheed S-3B Viking tankers. This is made possible through the inclusion of an aerial refueling system (ARS) or “buddy store,” allowing in-flight refueling of other aircraft. The ARS consists of an external 330 US gal (1,200 L) tank with a hose reel on the centerline, along with four external 480 US gal (1,800 L) tanks and internal tanks, providing a total of 29,000 lb (13,000 kg) of fuel on the aircraft.

In terms of avionics, the Super Hornet initially shared a 90% commonality with the F/A-18C/D fleet. However, specific differences include an up-front touchscreen control display, a large multipurpose color liquid-crystal display, and a fuel display. The Super Hornet features a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire system and a digital flight-control system capable of detecting and correcting for battle damage. The radar systems evolved from the APG-73 radar to the more advanced AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) in later models.

Block II Super Hornets are equipped with the AN/APG-79 AESA radar, enabling simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks, as well as providing high-quality ground mapping at extended standoff ranges. The AESA radar enhances target detection, including smaller targets such as inbound missiles, and extends the tracking range for air targets beyond the reach of the aircraft’s air-to-air missiles. Additionally, the Super Hornet has been upgraded with the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), enhancing situational awareness and targeting capabilities.