The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet was an upgrade to the single seat F/A-18C/D line of Hornets. It all goes back to the YF-17 test fighter in the 1970’s, on which the base F/A-18 Hornet is derived from. This base F/A-18 Hornet is a twin engine multi-mission aircraft designed around leading-edge extensions with digital fly-by-wire controls, with single-slotted flaps and ailerons over the whole span of the trapezoidal wings. This, alongside with canted vertical stabilisers give the Hornet an excellent high angle of attack, which was tested by NASA’s High Alpha Research Vehicle. All in all, an aggressive fighter, if needed.
Originally, the Hornet was to have two variants, an attacker and a fighter. However, these were merged into one craft via the Hornet’s multi-function displays, which allows the pilot to change to attack or fighter mode, or both, making the Hornet a proper multi-role fighter. This proved to be valuable asset in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, where operational commanders had large flexibility within scenarios and were able to adjust to situations with a single aircraft in the air.
The C/D version, the which Super Hornet is an upgrade on, has two variants; C being single seat and D being two-seat. D is more a training variant, while the proper mission-ready D’s second seat is reserved for Weapons and Sensors officer to assist the pilot. As such, it mostly served as U.S. Marine Corps’ night attack and Forward Air Controller.
Overall, the C and D models are block upgrades made to the Hornet in 1987, incorporating upgraded radar and avionics, ability to carry newer and larger variety of missiles and got neat little things like self-projection hammer and a synthetic aperture ground mapping radar. It also got a new ejection seat, the Martin-Baker NACES. 1989 models also had improved night attack abilities with Hughes AN/AAR-50 thermal navigation pods, good ol’ night vision goggles and two full colour MFD’s. An upgrade set that overall increases the effectiveness of the fighter.
The F/18-E/F upgrades were based on this, but where much larger in scale. While avionics, ejection seat and such things from the previous upgrades stayed largely the same, including the computer software, the Super Hornet is about twenty percent larger, has both heavier empty and maximum weights. Due to it carrying 33% more fuel internally, its mission range is 41% higher as well. All this meant that the catapults and arresting systems on the naval vessels had to be set differently for Super Hornets. Unlike the Hornet, Super Hornet was also designed to for aerial fueling, extending its airtime even further.
The larger frame of the Super Hornet comes from its longer fuselage and increased win area. The oval shaped intake ramps of the Hornet were switched for rectangular intakes, which also also slightly larger. Despite the larger size, the General Electric F414 engines give the Super Hornet 35% additional trust compared to Hornet’s F404 engines. The fuselage was not designed for stealth, but the overall design was to reduce ballistic weaknesses and emphasize the use of existing electronic warfare with innovative tactics its flip-of-the-switch multi-role function allowed.
The fuselage is also considerably smoother than its predecessors, as Super Hornet saw extensive use of panel joint serration and edge alignment to eliminate unnecessary surface joint gaps and resonant cavities. These help to reflect waves away from the craft, and with smaller frontal cross-section than its predecessors, the Super Hornet is hard to pick up by radar. F-22 and F-35 would totally eclipse it with their stealth technology.
The F/A-18E/F saw its first action in 2002 during Operation Southern Watch in Iraq as a bomber . After that, the Super Hornet has been flying every sort of mission, from escorting to close air support. For the U.S. Navy, they’ve proven a competent and effective fighter, which has made it a possible candidate for multiple countries for adoption. The Royal Australian Air Force acquired 24 Super Hornets in 2007, which was a controversial order due argument made that Super Hornet was inferior to the MiG-29 and Su-30 in the South East Asia. The first RAAF Super Hornet arrived in 2009, with the rest coming later down the line. Numerous other potential operators are about, including Canada to replace their CF-18 Hornets, Finland to replace their F/A-18 Hornets under HX Fighter Program, Poland to modernise their defence in 2021 and to have something to replace their Su-22M4 fleet, with few others in the line. Numerous bids for Super Hornet has failed across the years.
The difference between E and F variants are, as you’d expect, is that E is a single-seat variant while F is a two-seat variant.
The history of BETAverse Hornet and Super Hornet are very similar to the real world counterpart. Based on YF-17 from the Lightweight TSF Program, McDaell Doglam refined the fighter into a multi-purpose surface fighter for the U.S. Navy to use. While the F-14 Tomcat was still around, the Hornet began replacing them as U.S. Navy’s mainline surface fighter due to its lower maintenance and better cost-to-performance ratio. This mean that a Hornet had a longer fieldtime compared to the Tomcat, just like with the real world fighter. All in all, the BETAverse Hornet follows the history of the actual Hornet very closely.
The same can be said for the Super Hornet. With the all the upgrades made to the F-18E/F Super Hornet, it’s effectively a 2.5th generation TSF and fights in the same league as the SU-34 Terminator. Shoulders saw expanded thrusters, head section gained upgraded avionics and sensors and lower body overall was increased in order to expand operating time. The Super Hornet has similar performance to F-15E Strike Eagle, but at a lower cost, making it U.S. Navy’s and Marine Corps’ flagship and mainline machine, which got exported to place like Australia. E and F variations have the same seat arrangement as the real fighter.
As for its armaments, the Super Hornet doesn’t exactly have a wide variety to choose from. The American Assault Cannon of choice, the AMWS-21 Combat System, is the standard long-range combat goes by. As a special option inherited from the Hornet is the MGM-140 ATACMS missile container system, which has a neat radar unit on it to help guidance. Luckily, the Super Hornet as CIWS-1A Close Combat Knife over the terrible CIWS-1B.
As for the design, the Super Hornet really goes its way to incorporate some of the fighter elements into the TSF, but due to the size of the shoulders and knees, you don’t recognize it as a Hornet of any sort from the first view. This is due to its front silhouette being too large, whereas the Hornet and Super Hornet were designed to have less bulk. The colour is adopted from a real life Super Hornet, as pictured above.
Super Hornet had that smooth surface going on for it, and the TSF version of it almost seems to use this. However, the torso’s many segments, and hanging bits on the skirt armour and slightly excessive raised levels on the arms tell that this wasn’t a main concern. Even Tomcat seems to have smoother surface than the Super Hornet. However, it must be mentioned that the skirt armour does relay some of the fuselage’s smooth look, but that’s about it. Not that TSFs have to concern with stealth when it comes to fighting the BETA, but it’s rather important when fighting other TSFs.
The Jump unit is a truncated and deformed version of the fighter, with the nose cut off. Nothing too special overall, though it is slightly bulky.
Where the Super Hornet made its name for the fans was during the events in The Day After timeline, where it serves as the primary American TSF. Especially notable is how twelve Super Hornets defended USS John F. Kennedy against a sea of BETA in 2nd of July, 2004. Notable is also their use during the Defence of Seattle and during following events.