posted on Jun, 26 2006 @ 12:42 AM
To give you an idea of how desperate they were to leave the Bug-1 behind (having shut down the line 'in anticipation'), the Navy OPEVAL team graded
on a curve for what should have been a pass-fail (FAIL) and so when the Super Hornet came in at 363nm for strike and supposedly had to carry two tanks
to do it, they said the 6 looked like a 9 and were happy.
The real problem with the Bug-2 is that it's not a fighter and /by mission/ (bomb truck) was never really intended to be so. Which means that it
_does not need_ the 'same or better' pitch performance as the original, not least because of the prevalence of current HOBS weapons. When they
started monkeying with the LERX (returning to the full depth taper of the YF-17) they changed root flows and drag issues all around the wing root and
this required changes in sweep to maintain the same chord equivlance and center of pressure values. Which together threw the original bugs numbers
right out the window.
Then they wanted a third pylon on the wing and that REALLY monkeyed things up because the inner two and particularly the inboard:fuselage separations
are now so tight that they get a lot of tunneling and so 'to fix the fix' we got the toe and the canting. Which meant more drag again.
Unfortunately, the combination of the rough flow and the LEF vortice setup (off that damn snag which they _got rid of once already_) makes the
outboards more or less useless anyway and their greed cost another 50nm of radius at least.
In terms of internal fuel, you've got about 14,000lbs on a 47,000lb fighter configuration takeoff weight which is about .29 or the same as say an
F-15C with probably rather better TSFC. What's gonna kill you is the drag of the basic airframe plus all the external A2G crap (when originally sold
as a 'modification' to the original Hornet, the promised range figures were in the 550nm class).
This is something which hotter engines won't fix much, especially if they have limits to what they can do with massflow and stochios due to the inlet
Q factor and the 'device' vs. IHPTET.
A few things should however be noted:
1. The E/F have the bring back margin to 'take the weight' of additional tanking with a limited PGM loadout. The Bug-1 never did.
2. HART promises to give precision TLE offsets at ranges appropriate to the GBU-39's glideout. Which means that a single BRU-61 on the center line
would theoretically give you as many shots as all four of the (no wing tanks) OIF contempory configurations with mixed Mk.83 and GBU-16. HART being
originally designed to work with the GBU-38 off of VER-2, something that the 'no conical fin Mk.82' carriage limits may have axed anyway.
3. The USN is noted for using a lot of lolo performance figures which don't always mean the same thing in the medium/high altitude arena which
expeditionary airpower has gone to in recent years. From Grumman, an FSD F/A-18A went some 580-620nm down to the Castle ranges and back again for
instance. Of course it was tanked to the gills in a configuration not really useable at sea but the fact remains that, at altitude, the Bug-2 is
probably better than officially credited.
4. The Bug-2 is a tank at altitude (so is the Bug-1 for that matter). With next to zero smash in military and not much in A/B, it doesn't fight at
height at all well.
The Super Hornet is set to recieve a slew of updates in the comming years all designed to make the aircraft more survivable and lethal.
To me, the biggest advantage the USN has right now is the '2C2' (2C Squared) or 2-Crew, 2-Cockpit arrangement which lets the backseater function as
more than a cheerleader to the pilot. If they can bring a UCAV online which the ACS can exploit, you have the potential for ENORMOUS force
multiplication through the equivalent of 10-20 robotic spear-carriers.
This will also greatly leverage the Bug-2's drag and weight issues so that you can shift to all AAM/ARM equivalent (lightweight) systems rather than
simply try to 'ride the whale' forward. With three tanks and seven missiles, the Hornet will likely go 600nm.
Work has been done to reduce its radar signature including changes in materials, airframe shaping, and inlet changes to reduce the turbofans
signature. Other unspecified changes include:
Well, the new forward fuselage undoubtedly helps, it's wider which means the RAM is deeper and probably the fuselage access panel cutouts are
different as well. No gimbal means you can bury the AESA in a nice deep RAM collar and it may be that they have changed the dielectrics on the radome
to provide active fenestration. The APG-73 never did perform as well as it should have on the Bug-2.
But additionally, Boeing's secretive advanced programs group is coming up with a further step-change in stealth performance to minimize the
difference between the F/A-18E/F and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealth aircraft from the ground up.
More Air is the best armor. It is also the greatest stealth-cloak. You go out beyond 40nm and a lot of the on-site fire control stuff just isn't
going to see you. That said, the only real way forward is to stealth the pylons (which cuff kits are now available to do) and go for integrated
weapons pods that are functionally a BRU-61 within a 480-600 gallon tank. Myself, the biggest shortcoming on the Horror are the lack of adequate
weapons carriage for BVR systems. They should have put the TFLIR up in the nose and/or rigged the tip stations for AMRAAM (though it's a tall lift)
rather than waste money on the 'outrigger'.
It will also be interesting to see if they do the same thing with AMRAAM as they have with HARM in giving it an inertial A2G coordinate option. That
alone, in combination with a decent ALR-cued SAR snapshot targeting system, will give the Navy the best of both worlds on rapid point target
engagement without the section-mix of DEAD/AAW machines as typified the 18C.
The Navy will sonn begin taking deliver of Block 2 a/c which will include the Raytheon APG-79 AESA radar.
Let's hope we can do a better job of keeping it secure than we did with the 65 and 73.
New computer systems that will allow a/c to share imagery and data.
Worthless if you don't have the on-deck ISR to do more than sit at the AF beggars table.
Possible increase in thrust for the F414 engines.
Right now, you are looking at 2 AIM-9X and 1 AMRAAM for most 'multirole' configured missions. This virtually guarantees a merge fight in an
aircraft which is known to be slow to pitch, slow to pitch down, slow to recover E unloaded, unable to hold E while loaded and with poor roll reversal
to 'reset' the fight plane, defensively. Clean.
Frankly, I would prefer to see AIM-120D or Meteor (or a turbo-AAM) qualified to more stations or assymetric loadouts with _smaller PGM_. If you keep
the longest ranging sniper rifle option, and combine it with MSI and the E-2D, it doesn't matter if you're driving a shopping cart.
Particularly given the Navy's penchant for derating engines to conserve life in the marine environment, and the problems they had going from the -400
to the -402 on the original Bug for stall margin and parts lifing, (they basically recored the -400 before IPHTET caught up), I don't think pedaling
faster is the solution to the Bugliests problems.
And of course the F-18G electronic warefare variant.
IMO, unless they are willing to invest the money to condense the ALQ-99 down to 1-2 'superpods', this is a disaster waiting to happen. Not only are
you looking at fast-in/out and total radius performance issues but too much of the SEAD/EA game has changed for conditional jamming to be as effective
as it once was. I would be far more interested in hearing that they've finally got a smart-decoy and a decent techniques spread available for the
214. MAWS and DIRCM after that. Standoff before all else.