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Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

posted by Jiri Wagner

The US Navy Maritime Strike Attack Super Hornet, F/A-18 E and F, from Boeing (previously McDonnell Douglas) flew for the first time on November 29th 1995. The Super Hornet is about 25% larger than its predecessor, the F/A-18C/D but contains 42% fewer structural parts. The single seat F/A-18/E and the two seat F/A-18/F flies greater ranges, with heavier payloads, uses a more powerful engine and provides greater survivability. In January 1997 the aircraft successfully made its first landing and take-off from the deck of a U.S. Navy's Nimitz Class aircraft carrier, the USS John C.Stennis. The John C.Stennis supports 76 fixed wing aircraft including a squadron of 20 F/A-18 Hornets..

First production aircraft was delivered in December 1998. In February 1999, the US Navy placed an order for 30 Super Hornets, in addition to the 12 already ordered. Total requirement is for at least 545 aircraft.


The Super Hornet being larger than its predecessor carries more weapons. The aircraft has eleven weapon stations which include two additional wing store stations in comparison to the earlier aircraft. The F/A-18E/F will support a full range of armaments. Flight tests activities carried out during 1997 have included the launching of the air-to-air missiles, AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow and the AIM-120 AMRAAM; the release of guided air-to-ground weapons, Harpoon, SLAM, GBU-10, HARM, and Maverick; the release of free-fall air-to-ground bombs, Mk-76, BDU-48,Mk-82LD, Mk-82HD, and Mk-84.


The countermeasures systems are managed by the Integrated Defensive Countermeasures system, IDECM, which provides a coordinated situation awareness, manages the on-board and off-board deception countermeasures, manages the expendable decoys, and signal and frequency control of emissions. The IDECM system includes the ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser, the ALE-50 towed decoy and the AN/ALR-67(V)3 radar warning receiver. . The ALE-47 threat adaptive countermeasures dispenser system supplied by Tracor is capable of dispensing chaff cartridges, flares, and the POET and GEN-X active expendable decoys. . The ALE-50 Towed Decoy from the E-Systems Goleta Division of Raytheon consists of the decoy, a launcher and a launch control unit. The decoy is installed in a sealed canister which includes a payout reel. The system provides long range detection and extremely fast deployment to defend against most radar-guided threats.. The radar warning receiver AN/ALR-67(V)3 produced by Raytheon intercepts, identifies and prioritises the threat signals. The signals are characterised in terms of frequency, amplitude, direction, pulse width, etc. and the parameters are compared against a threat library in order to identify the threat.


The structural differences between the F/A-18E/F and the earlier F/A-18s are:

Northrop Grumman is a major subcontractor on the F/A-18E/F programme and is producing the Super Hornet's centre and aft fuselage sections, the twin vertical stabilisers and the associated subsystems.


The Super Hornet F/A-18E is the single seat version and the F/A-18F is the two seat version. The heated and air-conditioned cockpit is very similar to the Hornet's cockpit. The zero/zero ejection seat is the SJU-5/6 from Martin Baker Aircraft Company Ltd in the U.K. The F/A-18 cockpit is equipped with three colour display screens and an advanced head-up display. At night time, television like images from the navigation forward looking infra-red (Nav FLIR) are presented to the pilot on the head-up display, allowing the pilots to see ahead of the aircraft as if it were daytime. The cockpit also has a colour digital map and the pilots are also equipped with night vision goggles. The cockpit in the F/A-18E/F is equipped with a touch sensitive 3 inch by 5 inch control display, a larger six and a quarter inch multi-purpose liquid crystal colour display which shows tactical information, two 5 inch monochrome displays and a new engine fuel display. The aircraft retains the mission software and a high proportion of the avionics found in the C/D models.


The Super Hornet is equipped with the APG-73 radar manufactured by Raytheon. The APG-73 radar has an upgraded processor with increased speed and memory capacity in comparison to the AN/APG-65 which was installed on the earlier builds of the Hornet. The modes of the APG-73 include air-to-ground tracking, air-to-air velocity search mode, range while search and track while scan.


The aircraft's power is provided by two F414-GE-400 turbofan engines from General Electric. The engines are an advanced derivative of the GE F404 engines installed on the Hornet. The air inlets have been enlarged to provide increased airflow into the engines. The engines each provide 22,000 lbs thrust with afterburn giving a maximum speed in excess of Mach 1.8. The structural changes to the airframe on the F/E variant of the aircraft increase the internal fuel capacity by 3,600 pounds, a 33% higher fuel capacity than the F-18C/D variant. This extends the mission radius by up to 40%. Flight testing has been carried out with 480 gallon external tanks and the aerial refuelling store.

Boeing wins $8.96 billion US fighter jet deal

Boeing has been awarded an $8.96 billion contract by the US Navy to build 222 new F/A-18E/F jet fighters for the Navy over the next five years. The contract is for the first aircraft of a total of 548 aircraft that the US Navy hopes to procure to replace F-18Cs and F-14 in its inventory. Although regarded as an essential enhancement by the US Navy, the decision to buy the aircraft has been hotly debated with critics saying the US Armed Forces budget could not cope with simultaneous purchases of the Super Hornet for the Navy, the development of the F-22 Raptor for the US Air Force and the development of the Joint Strike Fighter for the Navy, Marine Corps an Air Force. Work on the new aircraft will be split between Boeing and its partner Northrop Grumman, with 60% of the work being done in St Louis, and 40% in Los Angeles in California. Although Boeing intends to build the aircraft in St Louis, it has still decided to sell off a major fabrication facility that will make parts for the F/A-18E/F aircraft in the city. The first operational squadron of F/A-18E/F jets is due to be deployed on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in 2002 and all aircraft bought under this contract to be in service by 2006. (16 June 2000, source: Defence Systems Daily)

General characteristics

Primary function Multi-role attack and fighter aircraft
Contractor Boeing (previously McDonnell Douglas); main subcontractor Northrop Grumman
Power plant Two General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofan engines
Thrust 2x 22,000 lb 2x 97.86 kN
Length 60 ft 1 in 18.3 m
Height 16 ft 4.88 m
Wingspan 44 ft 8 in 13.61 m
Weight empty 30,000 lb 13,608 kg
max. takeoff 66,000 lb 29,937 kg
Max. speed Mach 1.8 1,912 km/h
Combat radius 460 miles 741 km
Ceiling 50,000 ft 15,240 m
Crew F/A-18E: One, F/A-18F: Two
Armament One internal 20mm cannon MK-61A1 Vulcan; external payload: air-to-air missiles AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow and the AIM-120 AMRAAM; the release of guided air-to-ground weapons, Harpoon, SLAM, GBU-10, HARM, and Maverick; the release of free-fall air-to-ground bombs, Mk-76, BDU-48,Mk-82LD, Mk-82HD, and Mk-84..
Cena jednoho stroje $35 million
First flight November 29 1995

F/A-18F taking off at the McDonnell Douglas plant, St. Louis, Mo. (2.4 MB)

F/A-18F first cat shot from the deck of USS John C. Stennis (1.6 MB)

Press Releases

Boeing Selects Supplier for Super Hornet Block II Infrared Search and Track Capability / 2007-07-02

Boeing Delivers Dual-Cockpit Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System to the U.S. Navy / 2007-10-10/


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