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F-18 - good carrier aircraft?

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#1 Ricky



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Posted 29 November 2010 - 08:44 AM

GregP posted this in another topic:

Flo, The F-18's primary characteristic that resulted in it being selected by the Navy was twin engines to get the pilot home. I am not al all happy with the F-18 as a warplane. It carries half the war load of the F-14 for less than half distance, and does it a lot slower than the F-14. We'd have been much better off to re-engineer the F-14D model as an attack plane with better reliability than to adopt the F-18. I think it should have been named the Turkey, but will not stat that discussion in here.

So why don't we get into that discussion here?

#2 GregP


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Posted 01 December 2010 - 03:38 AM

Hi Ricky,

OK. The F-14 did everything well with a couple of excpetions.

1) The engines were problematic. Nothing that could not be cured by going to another engine or FIXING the existing one, but they WERE problematic.

2) The aircraft was maintenance intensive. At the end, it was costing 120+ man-hours per flight hour. The F-18 was newer and was coming in at 18-20 man-hours per flight hour and THAT is why it was bought ... to save money. Not becuase it was a better fighter.

The F-14D was the first Tomcat that has the engines the airframe was designed for, and it performed GREAT ... but the "fighter mafia" wanted small and agile, and agitated greatly for it. They never DID get small and simple, did they?

The F-18 carries half the bomb load, half or less the distance, at slower speed. How does THAT help the Navy deliver the goods on target? If you attach drop tanks, you lose hardpoints and can't carry much ordnance. If you load it up with ordnance, you can't GO anywhere.

Hence, you must have lots of tanker capability that can fly close to the point of delivery, or you fly less ordnance and more aircraft into the bad guys' camp. I guess pilots are more expendable than maintenance man-hours, huh?

Not saying the F-18 is a bad aircraft, but it definitely was NOT as good as the incumbent aircraft at either air-to-air or air-to-ground. I think if we replace an aircraft, it should be with something better for the task, not worse.

And please keep in mind that quoting Navy pilots is worthless. They like flying jets and will stick with the offical Navy line of reasoning the same as the AIr Force did when Chuck Yeager flew the MiG-15 in Korea and said the Sabre was better. What were they going to do? Tell the Air Force pilots to panic? No, they stayed with the script.

#3 Wuzak


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Posted 02 December 2010 - 11:26 AM

Australia has F/A-18s, but we have no carriers. I understand that we are getting the Suoer Hornet, F-18F IIRC, to replace our aging F-111s, which had one or two mishaps.

Not sure if we have in flight refuelling tankers, so considering we are surrounded by oceans it would seem a lack of range may be problematic.

A while back there as discussion about our next generation fighters - and it looks like we'll buy ino the F-35 program, though whether it would be the A, B or C variant I wouldn't know.

I just think that there are more capable aircraft out there which are cheaper to procure. As it is our air force struggles to keep the hours up fpr the pilots, except when we participate in wars for others (eg Afghanistan and Iraq).

Greg suggested we could get Sukhoi Su-35s, and install US engines and avionics. According to their Wiki articles the Su-35 would be roughly the same price as a Super Hornet, probably cheaper. It also has a range of about 1000 miles more than either the F-18E/F or the F-35A.

I understand that India uses Sukhoi 30s, but uses US and/or European missiles and bombs.

There are other options too, but we don't seem to shop around.

#4 Flo


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Posted 18 December 2010 - 10:45 PM

Back to some of the points we made on the WW2 carrier fighter thread. Yes Ricky, I believe the F-18 is a superb carrier fighter. With respect Greg, F-14s are notorious hanger queens. Their availability for tasking is appalling. As someone whose safety, even life, has depended on the CAP being where they said they'd be, when they said they'd be there, I really am not happy with the F14 as a warplane. :D

The F18 is cheap and therefore available in large numbers with budget to spare for maintenance and training (vs heavy fighters like the F14/15/22). It's proved itself highly effective in combat, limited range and payload not withstanding. It has extraordinary reliability. It is extremely robust and has demonstrated an ability to get back home even when heavily damaged. I've read it's engines were designed to resist stall and flameout, a problem endemic to F14s in USN service. Perhaps those problems could be fixed, the '70s avionics upgraded, the complex mechanisims for operating its' swing wings and variable ramp inlets simplified, but the F18 needs no improvement, it's already good to go.

A warbird is a weapon and as such is only a tool. Heavy fighters have huge advantages one on one, but a carrier can only hold so many. If its' larger fighters are less reliable and more maintenance intensive than its' more numerous smaller, lightweight fighters, the smaller birds can be considerably more effective than the carriers heavies. The potential of the larger aircraft will remain unrealised, the potential of the smaller fighter fully utilised. It demonstrates it's suitability as a far better tool for the job. One by one the USN has replaced its' strike, electronic warfare and fighter types with F18s. I believe they got a machine that was better for each task. Whether the F35 will ever prove as effective remains to be seen...

#5 Flo


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Posted 18 December 2010 - 11:04 PM

Wuzac at least you still have aircraft! :P The RAF have blindsided the RN (again), we won't be flying fast jets again for a decade, if ever :(. On the plus side the plan is to buy the 'C' variant F35, so at least they'll work off the QEs decks, something the 'B' (STOVL) might never manage...

I still recon there's a case for navalising Typhoons or bulk buying F18s or Rafales, mind. Just how many opponents in the next 30 years will need a fifth generation fighter to take down? (Maybe that's the next thread ;) )

#6 Elisa Jack

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 08:39 AM

Recently Mike Robbins sent me a 1968 photo of what he referred to as the Stores Basin, saying that there were two aircraft carriers. I was curious as to why this place was called Stores Basin. Also I could only spot one aircraft carrier. And so I asked him to elaborate and this was what he wrote:

It was called stores basin because all the supplies/logistics (Non armament and food) for the Royal Navy Far East Fleet were landed in that area where there were many godown type storage areas. There were also oil pipeline connections to each berth linked to the many tanks at Senoko which was the main storage area of fuel for the Fleet. Some tanks are still there and feed the power station I think.

There are two aircraft carriers if you look closely. One was HMS Victorious (full side on when you look). The other is actually at right angles to it in the basin itself (top left and adjacent to Victorious) It was actually a commando carrier with helicopters, most of which had been disembarked to one of the shore bases at the time. Hope this makes sense to you!

#7 GregP


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Posted 23 February 2011 - 05:21 AM

Hi Flo and Wuzak,

I did not say the F-18 was a bad aircraft. I said it was not as good as the incumbent aircraft, the F-14A.

The F-14A had range, payload, speed, and the ability to defend itself or attack anything in the air once it delivered the bombs.

The F-18 is very good in a dogfight, but has range and payload limitations. It is a very good aircraft, especially avionics-wise, as long as you don't need to deliver bombs 750 miles away and still get back while fighting. If you do, would rather have a working F-14A.

Yes, the F-14A had some issues. Nothing that could not be fixed, if they only DID. They didn't.

At air combat weights, the F-18 is very effective, possibly as effective as the F-14A also at air combat weights. But, the F-18 cannot deliver the bombs in the quantity or at the range of the Bombcat.

The F-14D was an altogether different story, and had absolutely superior airframe performance compared with the F-14A, especially at air combat weights. It was the first F-14 that had the engines the airframe was designed for.

Maybe the F-14 WAS ready for retirement but, if so, it should have been a better airframe that replaced it. At short range, the F-18 was as good as, but not better, than the F-14A. At long range, the F-18 was, and IS, simply not capable of replacing the F-14A or D.

The Super Hornet may well be better than the F-14A or D at short range due to superior avionics and great turn rate, but it still cannot match the F-14A or D at long range because it doesn't HAVE the range to do so with an equivalent payload at equivalent speed.

Maybe UAVs will do the trick at long range, but not F-18s unless refuelled frequently. I'd use the UAVs and keep the F-18 Super Hornets for task group defense.

Edited by GregP, 23 February 2011 - 05:29 AM.

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