I here reproduce a message sent by Tomcat114 in another forum:
That is the original title of the following comment about F/A-18E given by Lt. Col. Jay Stout, a USMC fighter pilot, combat veteran, and the author of "Hornets Over Kuwait" (these views are his own and do not represent the views of the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, or the United States government ).
"By JAY A. STOUT
December 15, 1999
I am a fighter pilot. I love fighter aircraft. But even though my service --I am a Marine-- doesn't have a dog in the fight, it is difficult to watch the grotesquerie that is the procurement of the Navy's new strike-fighter, the F/A-18 E/F Su per Hornet.
Billed as the Navy's strike-fighter of the future, the F/A-18 E/F is instead an expensive failure - a travesty of subterfuge and poor leadership. Intended to over come any potential adversaries during the next 20 years, the air craft is instead outperformed by a number of already operational air craft - including the fighter it is scheduled to replace, the original F/A-18 Hornet.
The Super Hornet concept was spawned in 1992, in part, as a re placement for the 30 year-old A-6 Intruder medium bomber. Though it had provided yeoman service since the early 1960s, the A-6 was aging and on its way to retirement by the end of the Gulf War in 1991. The Navy earlier tried to develop a replacement during the 1980s - the A-12 - but bungled the project so badly that the whole mess was scrapped in 1991. The A-12 fiasco cost the taxpayers $5 billion and cost the Navy what little reputation it had as a service that could wisely spend taxpayer dollars.
Nevertheless, the requirement for an A-6 replacement remains. Without an aircraft with a longer range and greater payload than the current F/A-18, the Navy lost much of its offensive punch. Consequently it turned to the original F/A-18 - a combat-proven per former, but a short-ranged light bomber when compared to the A-6. Still stinging from the A-12 debacle, the Navy tried to "put one over" on Congress by passing off a completely redesigned aircraft - the Super Hornet - as simply a modification of the original Hornet.
The obfuscation worked. Many in Congress were fooled into believing that the new aircraft was just what the Navy told them it was - a modified Hornet. In fact, the new airplane is much larger - built that way to carry more fuel and bombs - is much different aerodynamically, has new engines and engine intakes and a completely reworked internal structure. In short, the Super Hornet and the original Hornet are two completely different aircraft despite their similar appearance.
Though the deception worked, the new aircraft - the Super Hornet - does not. Because it was never prototyped - at the Navy's insistence - its faults were not evident until production aircraft rolled out of the factory. Among the problems the aircraft experienced was the publicized phenomenon of "wing drop" - a spurious, uncommanded roll, which occurred in the heart of the air craft's performance envelope. After a great deal of negative press, the Super Hornet team devised a "band-aid" fix that mitigated the problem at the expense of performance tradeoffs in other regimes of flight. Regardless, the redesigned wing is a mish-mash of aerodynamic compromises which does nothing well. And the Super Hornet's wing drop problem is minor compared to other shortfalls. First, the air craft is slow -- slower than most fighters fielded since the early 1960s. In that one of the most oft- uttered maxims of the fighter pilot fraternity is that "Speed is Life", this deficiency is alarming.
But the Super Hornet's wheezing performance against the speed clock isn't its only flaw. If speed is indeed life, than maneuverability is the reason that life is worth living for the fighter pilot. In a dog fight, superior maneuverability al lows a pilot to bring his weapons to bear against the enemy. With its heavy, aerodynamically compromised airframe, and inadequate engines, the Super Hornet won't win many dogfights. Indeed, it can be outmaneuvered by nearly every front-line fighter fielded today.
"But the Super Hornet isn't just a fighter", its proponents will counter, "it is a bomber as well". True, the new aircraft carries more bombs than the current F/A-18 - but not dramatically more, or dramatically further. The engineering can be studied, but the laws of physics don't change for anyone - certainly not the Navy. From the beginning, the aircraft was incapable of doing what the Navy wanted. And they knew it.
The Navy doesn't appear to be worried about the performance shortfalls of the Super Hornet. The aircraft is supposed to be so full of technological wizardry that the enemy will be overwhelmed by its superior weapons. That is the same argument that was used prior to the Vietnam War. This logic fell flat when our large, ex pensive fighters - the most sophisticated in the world - started falling to peasants flying simple aircraft designed during the Korean conflict.
Further drawing into question the Navy's position that flight performance is secondary to the technological sophistication of the air craft, are the Air Forces' specifications for its new - albeit expensive - fighter, the F-22. The Air Force has ensured that the F-22 has top-notch flight performance, as well as a weapons suite second to none. It truly has no ri vals in the foreseeable future.
The Super Hornet's shortcomings have been borne out anecdotally. There are numerous stories, but one episode sums it up nicely. Said one crew member who flew a standard Hornet alongside new Super Hornets: "We outran them, we out-flew them, and we ran them out of gas. I was embarrassed for those pilots". These shortcomings are tacitly acknowledged around the fleet where the aircraft is referred to as the "Super-Slow Hornet".
What about the rank-and-file Navy fliers? What are they told when they question the Super Hornet's shortcomings? The standard reply is, "Climb aboard, sit down, and shut up. This is our fighter, and you're going to make it work". Can there be any wondering at the widespread disgust with the Navy's leadership and the hemorrhaging exodus of its fliers?
Unfortunately, much of the damage has been done. Billions of dollars have been spent on the Super Hornet that could have been spent on maintaining or upgrading the Navy's current fleet of aircraft. Instead, unacceptable numbers or aircraft are sidelined for want of money to buy spare parts. Paradoxically, much of what the Navy wanted in the Super Hornet could have been obtained, at a fraction of the cost, by upgrading the cur rent aircraft - what the Navy said it was going to do at the beginning of this mess.
Our military's aircraft acquisition program cannot afford all the proposed acquisitions. Some hard decisions will have to be made. The Super Hornet decision, at a savings of billions of dollars, should be an easy one".