F/A-18E/F - From Hornet to Super Hornet and Stories from the Deck - 5

Top Gun: Maverick - Birds of Fray

Jul 19 2022 • 2 mins

The Hornet's advent brought in a new and capable bird to complement the F-14 Tomcat on to the Navy's Deck. However, the Hornet had a limited operating range & combat radius. Also, the post-Cold war world & the 1990s decade was about massive defense budget cuts & industry consolidation which witnessed the virtual disappearance of a large number of defense primes across the U.S. & Europe and production wind-ups on key defense programs. The Tomcat production line, too, was put on the chopping block with the Navy asked to seek a replacement for the in-service fleet given high operating & sustainment costs. The Navy explored F-15N Sea Eagle and even considered F-22N, a proposed naval variant of the F-22 Raptor featuring a variable sweep wing, under its Future Advanced Tactical Fighter (FATF) program, both of which were ultimately discarded over budgetary reasons. In the meanwhile, McDonnell Douglas proposed & pitched a larger variant of the F/A-18 C/D Hornet, a clean sheet & larger airframe design, with enhanced range and better capabilities, christened the Super Hornet, as a replacement for the F-14 Tomcat. There was no match between the Tomcat and Super Hornet in terms of tech specs & capabilities and the comparison would be like a bulldog to a puppy dog. However, in the prevailing realities of the Post-Cold War world, the Tomcat suddenly was a misfit with its dated technology & high sustainment costs and it's specialized role and mission profile simply having vanished with the vanquished adversary; just like the legendary SR-71 Blackbird; which too was wrapped up in 1990. The multi-role F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, thus, got the take-off clearance, had its maiden flight in 1995 and entered service in 1999 with the F-14 Tomcats bidding their final adieu to the carrier decks while flying into the sunset forever in September 2006...

Episode Image: Blue Angels' F/A-18 Super Hornets

Image Credits: Pixabay

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