The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a larger and more advanced variant of the F/A-18C/D Hornet. The Super Hornet is 20% larger, 7,000 lb heavier empty and 15,000 lb heavier at maximum weight than the Hornet. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has replaced the F-14 Tomcat in the United States Navy’s primary maritime air superiority fighter role and is 11,000 lb lighter than the Tomcat at empty weight.
In the 1980s McDonell Douglas (now a part of Boeing) presented a project named Hornet 2000, a larger more powerful variant of the F/A-18 Hornet. Following the cancellation of the A-12 Avenger 2 program in 1991, the US Navy decided to replace the A-6 Intruders and A-7 Corsairs with the Super Hornet. The new upgraded variant of the Hornet was also to replace the F-14 Tomcat.
An order was issued in 1992 by the US Navy and in just a few years the first prototype of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was ready. November 29, 1995, marked the maiden flight of the Super Hornet. The first low-rate initial production aircraft was delivered in December 1998, and all twelve of the first batch were delivered by November 1999. 3,100 test flights and 4,600 flight hours later the US Navy approved the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and 222 aircraft were ordered in June 2000.
Referred to as the Rhino to distinguish it from earlier F/A-18 Hornet variants, the Super Hornet has new wing, center and aft fuselage, tail surfaces and of course new engines. In fact, the two General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofan engines, advanced derivatives of the GE F404, provide 35% more thrust. The Super Hornet is also equipped with a touch-sensitive, up-front control display and a new engine fuel display, quadruplex digital fly-by-wire system and a digital flight-control system that detects and corrects for battle damage. Other differences include angular intakes for the engines, a smaller radar cross section (RCS) and two extra wing hardpoints for payload.
The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has already replaced the F-14 Tomcat, the A-6 Intruder and the S-3 Viking. The ability of the Super Hornet to take on the role of airborne tanker for the US Navy led to the replacing of the KA-6D. Based on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the EA-18G Growler will replace the EA-6B Prowler as an airborne electronic attack (AEA) aircraft. It is anticipated that $1 billion in fleet wide annual savings will result from replacing other types with the Super Hornet.
Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Specifications
F/A-18/E – 1
F/A-18/F – 2 – the pilot and co-pilot
Wingspan 44ft 8in (13.62 m)
Width, Wings Folded 30ft 7in
Length 60ft 1in (18.31 m)
Height 16ft (4.88 m)
Empty Weight 30,000lb (13,864 kg)
Take-Off Weight With Attack Payload 66,000lb (29,900 kg)
Maximum Speed In excess of Mach 1.8
Flight Ceiling 50,000ft (15,000 m)
Combat Radius 400nm
Combat Endurance 135 minutes
Guns 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A1/A2 Vulcan cannon
Hardpoints 11 with a capacity of 17,750 lb (8,050 kg)
F/A-18F Super Hornet Malaysia Flight Demonstration video
F/A-18F Super Hornet at Farnborough 2004 video
Another great Super Hornet Air Display video