The F/A-18 Hornet is a single- and two-seat, twin engine, multi-mission fighter/attack aircraft that can operate from either aircraft carriers or land bases.
The F/A-18 fills a variety of roles: air superiority, fighter escort, suppression of enemy air defenses, reconnaissance, forward air control, close and deep air support, and day and night strike missions. The F/A-18 Hornet replaced the F-4 Phantom II fighter and A-7 Corsair II light attack jet, and also replaced the A-6 Intruder as these aircraft were retired during the 1990s.
The F/A-18 has a digital control-by-wire flight control system which provides excellent handling qualities, and allows pilots to learn to fly the airplane with relative ease. At the same time, this system provides exceptional maneuverability and allows the pilot to concentrate on operating the weapons system. A solid thrust-to-weight ratio and superior turn characteristics combined with energy sustainability, enable the F/A-18 to hold its own against any adversary. The power to maintain evasive action is what many pilots consider the Hornet’s finest trait. In addition, the F/A-18 was also the Navy’s first tactical jet aircraft to incorporate a digital, MUX bus architecture for the entire system’s avionics suite. The benefit of this design feature is that the F/A-18 has been relatively easy to upgrade on a regular, affordable basis.
The F/A-18 has proven to be an ideal component of the carrier based tactical aviation equation over its 15 years of operational experience. The only F/A-18 characteristic found to be marginally adequate by battle group commanders, outside experts, and even the men who fly the Hornet, is its range when flown on certain strike mission profiles. However, the inadequacy is managed well with organic and joint tanking assets.
Development & Description F/A-18A Hornet
The F/A-18 Hornet was - and still is in its new variants - a revolutionary aircraft in the use of the most advanced technologies.
Born out of the YA-17, Northrop’s losing entrant to the USAF’s Light Weight Fighter (LWF) competition, the Hornet was bested by the compact General Dynamics YF-16 and left seemengly without any future. But a parterniship with McDonnell Douglas which had extensive designing carrier-borne fighters, saved it form being consigned to history.. Together Mcair as the aerospace giant was called and Northrop redesigned the YF-17 so well that it would go on to become the US Navy’s next multirole fighter. At the time of writing (2020), the F/A-18 had been produced in seven major variants, including the EA-18G Growler, was andi s operated by both domestic US and International customers and has been in operacional service for 34 years. It is also noteworthy for being the first aircraft to have carbon fibre wings, and for being the first tactical jet fighter to use digital fly-by-wire flight controls.
The Navy Air Combat Fighter Programme
The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet was designed for aircraft carrier duty and was the first tactical aircraft designed to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The U.S. Marines ordered it as an F-18 fighter and the Navy as an A-18 attack aircraft. It can switch roles easily and can also be adapted for photoreconnaissance and electronic countermeasure missions.
The F/A-18 Hornet was also the first aircraft to have carbon fibre wings and the first tactical jet fighter to use digital fly-by-wire flight controls. Variants included a two-seater, an improved fighter, a reconnaissance aircraft and a night-attack fighter.
Hornets entered active duty in January 1983. In 1986, Hornets on the USS Coral Sea flew their first combat missions. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, while performing an air-to-ground mission, Hornets switched to fighter mode and destroyed two Iraqi MiG-21s in air-to-air combat, then switched back to attack mode and successfully completed their air-to-ground mission. During 2001, Hornets provided around-the-clock battlefield coverage in the Afghanistan Theater of operations..
Fuselage And Wings
The cabin, pressurized and equipped with heating and air conditioning, accommodates a pilot (two in the two-seater) in a Martin Baker SJU-5/A (SJU-9/A in the Spanish) jection seat with “zero-zero” characteristics . The airplane access ladder folds completely on the bottom surface of the left LERX, folding / unfolding manually from the outside. The dome, in the form of a bubble, allows a 360º view, while it is hinged at the back for its electromechanical opening/closing. The windshield has a system for removing ice and rainwater.
The advanced technology of the instrument panel has been simplified to the maximum so that it can be handled efficiently by a single pilot. Main element is the three digital screens, HUD, front panel and controls, according to HOTAS concept, so that the pilot can fulfill his mission without taking his eyes off the exterior or the hands of the controls.
The fuselage is of semi-shock construction, using aluminum, steel and composites, and between both engines there is a titanium firewall.
The instep supports the two vertical drifts and the airbrake, which is hydraulically operated and consists of compounds. Finally, in the right front part of the fuselage, just in front of the windshield, is the retractable in-flight refueling probe, also hydraulically operated.
The cantilever construction wing is straight and the structure is constructed of aluminum alloy, the lining being between the stringers and the graphite / epoxy flaps. It has leading edge flaps in its entirety, both hydraulically operated and programmed by the computer, being operated for optimal lift / resistance, both in maneuvering conditions and in cruise flight. The ailerons and flaps of the trailing edge can be differentially deflected for warping control. The maximum deflection of the control surfaces is 30º for the leading edge flaps, 45º for the leading edge flaps, as well as the ailerons, which can be controlled in concert with the flaps. The leading edge extensions (LERX) provide additional lift, generating vortices that positively affect directional stability and at angles of attack of up to 60º. The external wing panels fold 100º by means of mechanical actuators.
The glue surfaces consist of a pair of one-piece stabilizers and two cantilever drifts. The structure is made of light alloy (bee panel) and the graphite / epoxy coating. The vertical surfaces are inclined 20º outwards, while the horizontal ones, with a negative dihedral of 2º, are completely mobile. Its operation can be collective or differential by means of hydraulic actuators. Precisely and in relation to vertical drifts, a fatigue problem was discovered due to the great batting they undergo on flights with high angles of attack. Initially the anchors were reinforced, to later include a modification in the production chain (and as retrofit in those already built), consisting of a small dorsal drift applied in each LEX, which alters the air flow through them and reduces to zero fatigue.
The landing gear consists of a directional front landing leg, with two twin wheels and a catapult bar (absent in the 72 F-18 of the FACA programme, putting in place a counterweight; the 24 of the CX program if they carry it) and the two main landings, with one wheel each. The front folds forward and the main ones back, pivoting 90º. These have disc brakes equipped with an anti-skid system. The arresting hook is under the lower fuselage, between both engines.
The fly-by-wire control system is quadruple, fully digitized through a multiplex bar
Mil/Stnd. 1553B. It has a direct electrical support to each control surface and direct mechanical to the stabilizers. Through the system, controls are automatically regulated according to flight conditions. Hydraulic power is provided by two separate 3,000 psi systems.
Radar And Equipment
The early Hornets incorporated an AN/APG-65 multimode / multimission radar, which over hundreds of thousands of hours of operation has proven to be one of the most flexible equipment ever designed, mainly due to a programmable signal processor. Even the operating modes in stock can be modified or added new, simply by changing the software. Its maximum range is 144 km. and it works with two impulse repetition frequencies, high and medium, using the doppler effect to discriminate moving targets with respect to the return of the ground, which makes it possible to make blockages both down-up and up-down. The high frequency of repetition of impulses allows the guidance of semi-active missiles type AIM-7F/P Sparrow, without using a continuous wave illuminator. It is provided with a high power transmitter, liquid cooled, and uses a progressive wave tube; Pthe APG-65 information is presented in the HUD and in any of the two side screens. One of the most interesting ways is the so-called “raid appreciation”, which allows you to separate targets that fly close together and identify them perfectly, as well as a short distance tracking mode to control the fire of the cannon, which in this way becomes in a deadly weapon in closed fighting. You can track ten targets, eight of which, the most dangerous, are presented on the screen.
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