Spoons - posted March 29, 2000 06:46 AM
Here's the original post from art on the AIRCRAFT list that I was referring to.
(SNIP FROM HERE ON)
On 7/19/99 5:12AM, Rich wrote:
> I kind of get the impression that you are not a Hornet advocate. The Hornet
> does have some short comings, but it is very reliable and inexpensive.
> Wasn't it the Red Baron who stated "It's not the crate, it's the man in the
> crate, that makes the difference". Wouldn't the Hornet's reliability allow
> it to be ready more often and hence allow pilots to acquire more flight
> hours? Additionally, I work with Hornet pilots and they frequently praise
> the Hornet for its flight characteristics and dog fighting capability. I'm
> curious, what aspect of the Hornet you find unfavorable?
Moi? Not a fan of the Hornet? Whatever would make you think so?
Seriously, no I'm not. Without boring everyone with a lot of what I've
written before, I'll try and just hit some of the key points. First, I should
explain that it's not that the Hornets are bad aircraft, just that we could have
gotten a lot better for our money and that Naval Aviation has been hurt by these
aircraft because so much else has been sacrificed to justify them.
The Hornet is very reliable, partly because of using mid-late '70s technology
when other aircraft were using late '60s-early '70s. Also, keep in mind that in
many cases you don't so much repair a Hornet as replace parts (easily, I'll grant)
and send the broken stuff back to be fixed elsewhere.
The Hornet A/B/C/D was less expensive than the alternatives, but a lot of
that was because it did less and when you're producing 48-60 a year, your fixed
and variable cost per unit is a lot less than that of a plane that's being
produced at a rate of 8-12 a year.
The Hornets A-D are historical fact, and it's kind of pointless for me to go
into great detail here why I think they shouldn't have been built. If you check
the April and August 1981 issues of the Naval Institute Proceedings, you 'll find
something I wrote detailing why I thought it was a bad move. Let me just
illustrate a few key points:
1. Hornet underwent OPEVAL in both the fighter and attack role. In one, the
result was that the aircraft needed substantial work to meet the Navy's needs, and
in the other it was given a down with the recommendations that it be abandoned for
that role. Instead, the direction came down to ignore the OPEVAL results and to
redefine mission to what the Hornet was capable of.
2. If we had not developed the Hornet, the Navy could have solved the F-14A
problems, developed and built the A-7X (a superior attack alternative which
eventually flew as the A-7F) and had $8 billion (~1980 dollars) left over. this
was known at the time.
3. Although aided by the hubris of Grumman and the Tomcat fighter community,
the F-14's air-to-ground capabilities were suppressed in order to justify the
Hornet. The vital re-engining of the Tomcat was also delayed because of all the
money being thrown at the Hornet and because, good dogfighter that the Hornet is,
it isn't substantially better and than a Tomcat with decent engines.
4. Other naval aviation opportunities were lost in order to make th Hornet
The big heartburn I have now is with the Super Hornet. I am afraid it is
going to end carrier aviation. Here's why:
1. Eight years ago, we had completed development and had sitting on the ramp
a fighter (the F-14D) that was far better than anything expected of the Hornet
E/F, both aerodynamically and electronically. Multiple sensors, a radar that was
essentially couldn't be fully jammed by any known ECM and could search and track
a volume eight times as large as the Super Hornet's, sensor fusion coming up, more
weapons, faster accel/decel. tighter turning, greater range and combat
persistence, better fire control, two crew, etc.
2. For 1/25th of what it cost to develop the Super Hornet (which I'll call
E/F from here on) we could have given the Tomcat all-weather strike capability
equal to and in a couple of cases superior to that of the F-15E. No one claims
that the E/F would have that capability. In fact, it is not capable of all
weather strike. The E/F is not as capable in medium strike as the A-6F that was
(properly with what we knew at the time) canceled over 10 years ago. We know this
because what became the Super Hornet was in competition with the A-6F and was
rejected as not being able to perform the mission.
3. The R&D costs of the E/F have been understated and concealed, in my book.
Here's one example: Some of the promises for the E/F air-to-air and
air-to-ground depend on its electronically scanned antenna. Problem is, that
antenna doesn't exist. It has to be developed for the Hornet. However, E/F
proponents do not include the cost of developing that antenna (and it's a lot)in
the E/F's R&D estimate, saying it's really a "common" antenna for Navy aircraft.
Thing is, no one can identify any aircraft other than the E/F that it's supposed
to go in! Keep in mind that without that antenna, the E/F of 2005 has the same
radar and fire control of the C/D of 1995. There are other examples.
4. Comparisons with other aircraft alternatives have been specious or
downright deceptive. Here are three: 1) When comparing with the Tomcat,
projected figures for the E/F are compared with those of the 1970s F-14A, not the
1990s F-14D (which also, while not matching the Hornet's lower maintenance
requirements, requires much less maintenance than an A). 2) Admiral Mixon was
one of those who widely touted a comparison that showed the E/F could strike a
target farther away than an A-6E or F-14D. Examination of the comparison showed
that the external loads were sub optimal for A-6 and F-14, and were designed
around Hornet. More importantly, A-6 and F-14 were loaded with iron gravity bombs
whereas E/F was configured with long range standoff missiles. The range of the
missiles was added to the E/F's radius to get its "strike distance", but only the
other two aircraft's radius' were counted, 2) A "long range strike" mission for
the E/F is often put forth to show how far the E/F can go. What is not disclosed
is that in order to achieve this range, for every strike E/F, another E/F must
also be launched whose sole purpose is to transfer as much fuel as possible to the
strike E/F. Wanna guess how far a Tomcat could go if there are tankers around?
5. Other claims are let's say, "creative". Much is made of the fact that
the E/F has two more wing stations it can use to carry more standoff weapons
relative to the C/D. What's left out, according to GAO and others, is that while
the E/F can carry those weapons on those stations, because of clearance
limitations, it can't actually fire them from those inner stations. Small detail.
(NOTE FROM SPOONS: This post caused some debate, as you may imagine. This point above was questioned by someone who said that they COULD fire missiles. I asked Art yesterday if there was ever any agreement reached about who was right. His reply: "It can carry them, it just can't fire them from there. The confusion came
from which stations were the "new" ones.")
6. It's becoming apparent that if you hang the 450 gal fuel tanks on a C/D,
it goes just about as far as an E/F.
7. It also seems that the Navy's missions are being redefined to, "Whatever
the E/F can do".
8. Much of naval aviation is being sacrificed to preserve the E/F. The
F-14D went. The rewinging/upgrade of the A-6 was canceled and the plane
prematurely retired in order to pay for/help justify the E/F. The A/FX, which was
really the future for naval aviation, was first postponed and then abandoned to
help pay for and create a need for the E/F. AIM-120 capability for the F-14
probably won't happen because of the E/F.
9. Based on performance in Iraq and in Yugoslavia, it's arguable that
LANTIRN -equipped F-14s are better platforms for PGMs than the Hornet.
10. At the same time that the Hornet is driving the need for tanker
capability up (the C/D uses three times the fuel of the A-7 and the E/F uses
more), going to an all-Hornet deck reduces tanking assets. The A-6E could have
been retained as a tanker. If it had, it would have been far better than any
alternative (and wouldn't have required rewinging). However, no one wanted any
kind of A-6 around (except the Prowler) to remind people of what was lost.
11. Tactical recon is suffering because in 16 years, they've been unable to
turn the Hornet into a worthwhile recon bird. TARPS capability has been held
back over the years because the Hornet was the "designated wonderplane". I don't
think this is even being addressed with the E/F.
12. It looks like the Hornet E/F will be placed into service no matter how
testing turns out. Navy has already acknowledged that in a number of areas it's a
step backward relative to the C/D.
13. I'm afraid JSF will be the next thing sacrificed on the altar of the E/F.
14. Go look at what happened in the most recent Hornet/MiG-29 fights in
Germany (now that the Germans have optimized their Fulcrum tactics).
15. Look at the specs, capabilities and costs of Eurofighter and Rafale.
Then look at the same things for the E/F. Then shake you head and go have a
drink. You'll need it. If this is the best we can do, do we really need carrier
Art "Where's the Raid when We Need it?" Hanley
Member posted March 29, 2000 09:13 AM
That's some good stuff but unfortunately it's not very accurate. Where do I start, let's see:
1. The F-14D. The Navy did like this aircraft and pushed hard to keep it on our decks well before the E/F was ever dreamed up. Unfortunately, Congress didn't agree with it's large costs both initial and maintenance. It died not because the E/F took away it's funding but because we couldn't afford it! Yes it is superior but let's see, how many Phoenix kills have we racked up since it's inception. It's a cold war weapon! Yes it's got a great radar but with the hawkeye and Aegis platforms, we can see sufficiently without it's added cost. Let's all face it, we love this aircraft but its over. It was killed by other programs that never came to fruition (ATX/navalized ATF) and it's high operational costs. I agree that we should have kept instead of gambling with those technologies.
2. 1/25 the cost of E/F to give the F-14D strike capablity. Sure but we don't have enough F-14D for the whole fleet. The production line is shut down so when you add in reopening the line, costs of new F-14D and their higher operational costs, nope your short, way short and congress killed this bird once due to its high costs. Think we can get them to change their minds???
3. The antenna thing is pure baloney! The funding just wasn't there to put it in right away. It will be incorporated in mid-production and it will be a major improvement. Work on the similar F-22 radar will keep R+D down along with costs. This antenna was at one point to retrofit existing C/D's but got pushed back due to budget and technology problems.
4. I'll agree with you here about the mythical performance of the E/F. The Navy was a little too eager to hide the deficiencies and blur what they had given up with a multi-plane deck. But this decision was already made. Whether it was wrong or right can be debated but not the economics. There was just not enough money to fund more than one platform sufficiently. The E/F does provide very respectable strike capabilites compared to any fighter in range and payload. It doesn't have the 14's range but it does deliver a wider variety and competes well with Rafale and Typhoon.
5. Again baloney. The wing stations weren't cleared with certain weapons during testing to ensure safety. As it enters the fleet, the full weapons carriage capability is astonishing. This includes assymetric loadings that truly make this plane versatile beyond anything including the much vaunted A-6E/F-14D.
6. C/D's don't cary 450 gal for one big reason. They can't land with them on carriers. Also, when carrying any tanks, the C/D is left with 2 hardpoints so the E/F effectively doubles the striking power. This is very important when considering operational costs and efficiencies. That's half the planes doing the same mission, going farther with better self protection (ECM).
7. I say baloney again. The missions were there before the E/F was even conceived. The C/D didn't do them very well but it did them all(Range limited). The F-14B/D is a PGM delivery platform for precision/long range strike and a superb long range air superiority fighter but isn't very versatile. Yes we should have made it such but that's already been discussed above. This leaves us with a big hole in between and the E/F fills it nicely. Sure we'll lose that long range strike but the E/F can do it at a cost of self-tanking. Also, most of our missions have not required the 14's range, it was a great capability but the C/D still performed well in our latest incidents and the E/F will offer a substantially greater capability than the C/D.
8. Baloney. The E/F wasn't even conceived during the AFX nightmare. Yes AFX would have given the Navy a stealty, long range A-6 replacement but it was not affordable or technologically feasable or both. Same deal on the 14D. It just costs too much to operate it.
9. Yes the 14 can outperform C/D due to range/better FLIR/slightly better payload/speed. The E/F has a totally new FLIR that is superior to LANTIRN, carries a similar PGM payload but does lack range and speed although it too is superior to the C/D in range. So we sacrifice speed and some range but get lower operational costs. Money is king nowadays.
10. What's this??
"At the same time that the Hornet is driving the need for tanker
capability up (the C/D uses three times the fuel of the A-7 and the E/F uses
more), going to an all-Hornet deck reduces tanking assets. "
Since when does the E/F use more tanking than the C/D. The E/F has more range with that fuel so no, wrong the E/F uses significantly less tanking and even has the ability to tank itself, allowing the Navy to reduce its tanking inventory, not increase it. If tanking is required, self-tanking allows a much more efficient attack profile as well.
11. Tactical recon has never been a hornet priority because, hello!!, we have the best recon asset in the TARPS F-14. Yes there is a recon system for the F-18 C/D and that will eventually replace the TARPS. When we replace C/D with JSF, then we will require a new recon asset which I assume will be a JSF project as it is stealthier than the E/F. So what is your point here?
12. Yes the E/F is slightly and I mean slightly less capable in certain very specific aspects to the C/D but it is negligible. As far as any specific MISSION, the E/F is better. AA or AG the E/F can do either mission better. As a dogfigher it is very close to the C/D, better in most aspects and slightly inferior a few others. Power is a bit of a problem but I think just like the F-18A, we will see engine modifications that rectify this. By the way the 9X cannot be thrown on any aircraft. It is a system dependent weapon that would have to be added to both the C/D and 14 at significant cost so don't ever say the 9X is not a major benefit of the E/F.
13. What does the E/F have to do with the JSF? The JSF is a scheduled replacement of the C/D. If production slips, and it probably will, increased E/F production will fill the gap so that we have something capable to fly. If anything, the E/F will push the JSF to maintain its requirements so they don't slip into the E/F range. Why buy JSF if it isn't a significant addition to the airwing? I think it will be a solid aircraft but who knows.
14. Oh another press story about an exercise. OK this really ticks me off. Exercises are just that. They have incredible restrictions that usually favor the host, especially foreign hosts and do not normally allow us to utilize our superior tactics and C4 (E-2C, Aegis, even AIM-120). So yeah, in a limited exercise the MIG-29 could probably give our C/D a real problem but even then, we do pretty well. It's all about saving face when you read a press report about an exercise. Israel recently pulled a good one too but when you look at the facts, once our pilots acclimated to the lop-sided rules we gave em a 1 to 1 ratio against an aircraft that is superior to the MIG-29 with better pilots. So yeah, believe what you want but even the C/D is a match for the 29. The E/F will fare just as well and the 9X will totally change the situation.
15. Lets see, Eurofigher costs $60 million a pop, can't land on carriers and offers slightly lower payloads with slightly better range. That's not even close. The carrier capability alone makes the designs hard to compare. It's a better fighter but not a better strike platform. The Rafale M is a great strike fighter but it lacks the payload of the E/F by about 5,000 lbs. Again, a better fighter but not as versatile in strike. It's more like a C/D with enhanced engines, range and maneuverability. It will deliver that smaller payload faster but not farther. It has speed though and it is superior in AA roles so I do think the E/F made a cost conscience choice which limited performance. Yes the E/F can't outrun either of these or out turn them but neither can any other plane excepting the F-22. Could we have made the E/F a better fighter, heck yeah, but at what cost? To get what we have was expensive but it was on budget and on time and does give the Navy a significant improvement to our air wings. How many dogfights have their been since Vietnam?? How many of those were with guns??
Spoons - posted March 29, 2000 12:06 PM
Looks like we have a debate here!
You asked my thoughts yesterday. I think Art (and you) make many good points.
I guess (for me at least) the rub is after all this money and time we have a plane with a lot of astericks next to it.
- Flies further than the C/D *
* But not as far or as fast or with as much load as the alternatives could have
- Can carry more high-tech weapons than the other planes *
* Just don't ask it to carry iron the way an A-6 could
- Carries a new Sidewinder *
* But still may or may not be better than the C/D in a close in fight without it
- Is better than the C/D at ATA or Fleet Defense *
* But the big ATA stick it carries still can't touch what the -14 could, nor can its radar/antenna
- Needs less tanking *
* As long as there's enough E/Fs to go around and you can devote some of them to buddy-tank when you really need to go beyond the beach.
- Proved its worth and value on paper to justify production *
* With some creative math
I don't know...basically saying that the Hornet did well enough in recent conflicts* is tricky to me.
* But drew a lot of CENTAF tanking assets in the Gulf for its daylight bombing and which, during Bosnia, required a carrier to move in closer to shore.
Our next opponent, while probably not equal to the Soviets of the 1980s, may indeed have first-class fighters and may indeed pose a very real threat to a carrier group. I question whether the E/F is up for what it could be asked to do.
All the bickering aside, if I were, say, India, and was preparing to take on the USN in a regional fight, I'd be a hell of a lot more afraid of F-14Ds and theoretical A-6Fs than I'd be of a swarm of Hornets, "Super" or not. Yes, the Phoenix is a "Cold War" weapon, but so is 90% of the US inventory...you still have to honor the threat that it can bop you in the nose from 100 miles out. Yes, the need for "deep strike" may be better handled by Tomahawks or whatever, but isn't it better to have an Ace up your sleeve like a theoretical A-6F instead of buddy-tanking your Hornets all the way to target or parking your carrier in the Ganges River so your Hornets have enough range?
I just think we made many bad decisions to get us to this point where everything rides on the E/F, and regardless of whether it's useful to argue about those past mistakes or not, I just can't bring it in me to be EXCITED about the E/F. IMHO, it's too little improvement for too much money.
I think it is at best the lesser of the evils. We could have done much better for naval aviators, and we should have at several points going back to the 1970s.
[This message has been edited by Avatar (edited 12-20-2000).]