US Navy Fact File F/A 18 Hornet
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Its versatility and reliability have proven it to be a valuable carrier asset, though it has been criticized for its lack of range and payload compared to its earlier contemporaries, such as the Grumman F Tomcat in the fighter and strike fighter role, and the Grumman A-6 Intruder and LTV A-7 Corsair II in the attack role.
The Hornet first saw combat action during the United States bombing of Libya and subsequently participated in the Gulf War and Iraq War. The U. Houser , deputy chief of naval operations for air warfare — the highest-ranking naval aviator. In August , Congress mandated that the Navy pursue a lower-cost alternative to the F Grumman proposed a stripped F designated the FX, while McDonnell Douglas proposed a naval variant of the F , but both were nearly as expensive as the F Though the YF won the LWF competition, the Navy was skeptical that an aircraft with one engine and narrow landing gear could be easily or economically adapted to carrier service, and refused to adopt an F derivative.
On 2 May , the Navy announced its selection of the YF On 1 March , Secretary of the Navy W.
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Graham Claytor announced that the F would be named "Hornet". On the F, the two companies agreed to evenly split component manufacturing, with McDonnell Douglas conducting final assembly. McDonnell Douglas would build the wings, stabilators , and forward fuselage; while Northrop would build the center and aft fuselage and vertical stabilizers. McDonnell Douglas was the prime contractor for the naval versions, and Northrop would be the prime contractor for the FL land-based version which Northrop hoped to sell on the export market. For carrier operations, the airframe, undercarriage, and tailhook were strengthened, folding wings and catapult attachments were added, and the landing gear was widened.
A "snag" was added to the wing's leading edge and stabilators to prevent an aeroelastic flutter discovered in the F stabilator. The YF's control system was replaced with a fully digital fly-by-wire system with quadruple redundancy, the first to be installed in a production fighter. Originally, plans were to acquire a total of aircraft of three variants: the single-seat FA fighter and AA attack aircraft, differing only in avionics, and the dual-seat TFA, which retained full mission capability of the F with a reduced fuel load.
Northrop developed the FL as a potential export aircraft. Since it was not strengthened for carrier service, it was expected to be lighter and better performing, and a strong competitor to the F Fighting Falcon then being offered to American allies. Though the aircraft retained a lightened tailhook, the most obvious external difference was removed "snags" on the leading edge of the wings and stabilators. It had three underwing pylons on each side, instead.
Compared to the FL, the outboard weapons pylons are moved closer to the wingtip missile rails.
Hornets in Action
The partnership between McDonnell Douglas and Northrop soured over competition for foreign sales for the two models. A settlement was announced 8 April for all of the lawsuits. During flight testing, the snag on the leading edge of the stabilators was filled in, and the gap between the leading-edge extensions LEX and the fuselage was mostly filled in. This may have contributed to early problems with fatigue cracks appearing on the vertical stabilizers due to extreme structural loads , resulting in a short grounding in until the stabilizers were strengthened.
Starting in May , a small vertical fence was added to the top of each LEX to broaden the vortices and direct them away from the vertical stabilizers. This also provided a minor increase in controllability as a side effect. In the s, the U. Hornets and Super Hornets will serve complementary roles in the U. It is highly maneuverable, owing to its good thrust-to-weight ratio, digital fly-by-wire control system, and leading-edge extensions , which allow the Hornet to remain controllable at high angles of attack. The trapezoidal wing has a degree sweepback on the leading edge and a straight trailing edge.
The wing has full-span, leading-edge flaps and the trailing edge has single-slotted flaps and ailerons over the entire span. Canted vertical stabilizers are another distinguishing design element, one among several other such elements that enable the Hornet's excellent high angle of attack ability, including oversized horizontal stabilators, oversized trailing-edge flaps that operate as flaperons , large full-length leading-edge slats , and flight control computer programming that multiplies the movement of each control surface at low speeds and moves the vertical rudders inboard instead of simply left and right.
The Hornet was among the first aircraft to heavily use multifunction displays , which at the switch of a button allow a pilot to perform either fighter or attack roles or both. This "force multiplier" ability gives the operational commander more flexibility to employ tactical aircraft in a fast-changing battle scenario.
It was the first Navy aircraft to incorporate a digital multiplexing avionics bus , enabling easy upgrades. The Hornet is also notable for having been designed to reduce maintenance, and as a result, has required far less downtime than its heavier counterparts, the F Tomcat and the A-6 Intruder. Its mean time between failures is three times greater than any other Navy strike aircraft, and requires half the maintenance time.
The engine, while unexceptional in rated performance, demonstrates exceptional robustness under various conditions and is resistant to stall and flameout. The engine air inlets of the Hornet, like that of the F, are of a simpler "fixed" design, while those of the F-4, F, and F have variable geometry or variable intake ramp air inlets.
This is a speed-limiting factor in the Hornet design. Find out what you have been missing.
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