Here is an article from "Flight Journal" February of 2002 issue magazine that compared the F-14D Tomcat to the F/A-18 E/F. It was written by Ret. Adm. Paul Gilcrist and Robert Kress. Gilcrist served in the Navy for 33 years, commanded an fighter squadron and airwing along with being at one time in operational control of all Pacific Fleet Fighter Squadrons. He also has 6000 hrs in 75 different types of aircraft an 167 combat missions over Vietnam. Kress was the F-14A's program engineering manager and deputy of development programs manager.
The two writers are discussing the differences between the Super Hornet and Super Tomcat in a strike against Afghanistan after being launched from a carrier. There main arguement is that the best aircraft is the one being replaced.
"Assuming the use of S-3 tankers, an F-14D strike, refueling somewhere between Quetta and Sukkur, Pakistan, wouldn't have any trouble attacking targets in northern most Afghanistan. If however, an F/A-18 E/F refuels in the same spot, it will barely make it to Kabul. The unrefueled radius of an F-14D carrying normal strike load (4 2,000lb LGBs, 2 Phoenix missiles and two Sidewinders plus 675 rounds of 20mm and two 280 gallon external tanks) is at least 500 statute miles. Accompanying E/F Super Hornets have only a 350 statute mile radius carrying about half the bomb load."
Here they are discussing why they chose the current time to write this article. "Is writing this kind of article worth it, we wondered; we might be seen to be 'piling it on' when the Navy is in difficulty and clearly on the steep downhill slide. Well, we listened, with no small restraint, to the pontifications that justify how well the Nvy is doing with its favorite program. The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet despite unimpeachable reports to the contrary from the guys in the fleet; comments made to us by young fleet pilots who have flown the airplane and describe it as 'a dog' carry much more weight with us than statements from senior oficers and civilians higher in the food chain."
HERE IS THE MEAT!!!!!
"Though it's a whizzy little airshow performer with a nice modern cockpit (Super Hornet), it has ONLY 36% of the F-14Ds payload/range capability. The F/A-18E has been improved but still has, at best, 50% o the F-14D's capability to deliver a fixed number of bombs (in pounds) on target. This naturally means that the carrier radius influence drops to 50% of what it would have been with the same number of F-14Ds. As a result, the area of influence (not radius) drops by 23%. No wonder the Navy is working on "buddy tanker" versions of the Super Hornet."
"Though the U.S. Navy is working very hard to correct F/A-18 E/F OPEVAL problems, it is worth summing them up: The production F/A-18 E/F, is significantly overweight with respect to its specifications (30,000 pounds empty weight)."
"In combat, the aircraft had severe "wing drop" problems that defied resolution, despite the use of every aerodynamic analytical tool available. Eventually, one test pilot came up with "leaky fold joint" fix that opened chordwise air slots to aspirate the wings upper surface flow and thereby prevent the sharp stalling o one wing before the other. They stalled more or less together, but much earlier and more severe than before. It causes aircraft buffeting, which is generally a source of wing drag. But a "fix" that combined an "acceptable" wing drop with "acceptable" buffeting had been achieved. One test pilot commented dryly, 'I'd like the buffeting levels to be a little lower so I could read the heads up display."
We stayed in touch with some Navy pilots at the Navy Test Center and gathered some mind boggling anecdotal information. Here are some example.
"An F/A 18A was used to "chase" an F-14 test flight. The F-14D was carrying 4 2000-pound bombs, two 280 gallon droptanks, two Phoenix missiles and two Sidewinder air to air missiles. The chase airplane was in relatively "clean" configuration with only a centerline fuel tank. At the end of the flight, the chase airplane was several miles behind the test airplane when the chase airplane reached bingo fuel and had to return to base"
"A F/A-18E Super Hornet is tested using the same chase airplane, an earlier model Hornet, in the same cofiguration. The chase airplane does not need full thrust to stay with the test airplane."
"An F/A-18 E/F in maximum afterburner thurst cannot exceed Mach 1.0 in level flight below 10,000t even when it is in clean configuration (no external stores). At 10,000ft, the F-14D can exceed Mach 1.6."
"A quote from a Hornet pilot is devastatingly frank: 'The aircraft is slower than most fighters fielded since the early 1960s.'"
"The most devastating commet came from a Hornet pilot who flew numerous side by side comparison flights with the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and says, 'We outran them, we out-flew them and we ran them out of gas. I was embarrassed for them."