F/A-18E/F Super Hornet - Into the Hornet's Nest and Boeing's Stories from the Deck - 4

Top Gun: Maverick - Birds of Fray

Jul 15 2022 • 2 mins

The F-14 Tomcat truly became the tip of the USN's spear in the fleet defense and air superiority roles upon entering service in 1974 as it had been designed to carry out air-to-air interdiction of incoming waves of Russian bombers and fighters from long ranges with its Mach 2.34 top speed, variable sweep wing, powerful APG-9 radar and onboard AIM-54 Phoenix missiles capable of striking targets at beyond visual ranges of around 100NM while cruising at speeds of upto Mach 4.3 to Mach 5. The F-14 truly was formidable but its sustainment costs were substantial especially for the swing-wing system. The Congress ordered the USN to search for lower cost substitutes in 1973. However, the search for proposed substitutes, like F-15N Sea Eagle and lighweight F-14X, ended up being economically unviable. The Navy, in the early to mid-1970s, was also looking for a deck based fighter to replace its legacy A4 Skyhawks, A7 Corsair IIs and the F-4 Phantom IIs and to also complement the F-14 Tomcats on its flattops. In the meanwhile, USAF's Light Weight Fighter (LWF) had just been won by the General Dynamics' YF-16 in 1975 which ultimately became the F-16 Fighting Falcon while the losing prototype YF-17 was picked up by the Navy as its baseline design which was subsequently modified heavily for the carrier role by McDonnell Douglas and Northrop turning it ultimately into the USN's F/A-18A Hornet which had its maiden flight in 1980. Let's cover the Hornet's journey to becoming the Super Hornet in the next episode...Also, check out the first YF-18A Hornet on display in 1978 in the episode image.

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