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BOEING F/A-18E SUPER HORNET
4.5th generation multirole carrier fighter
- Full Scale
- Full Stock
- Parts: 400
The Hornet gets new wings
The F/A-18 Hornet was a 4th generation naval fighter developed from Grumman’s submission to the Lightweight Fighter competition (which ultimately produced the F-16 Viper.) The initial design was further developed by McDonnell was first deployed to the fleet in the late 1970s, where it saw action over Libya and the Persian Gulf, acting as both a fleet defense fighter, close air support, and interceptor.
By the turn of the century, the first-generation hornets were showing their age, but the Navy had a problem: budgets were constricting and there wasn’t the political support to fund a next-generation fighter program. Rather than scrub for money, the Navy sold the development program to Congress as a minor modification to the F/A-18 airframe. Meanwhile, they told Boeing (who had acquired McDonnell Douglas in 1977) to
make whatever changes they wanted to the aircraft so long as a congressman would still recognize it as a Hornet.
The changes were ultimately rather significant - the nose remained the same, but everything aft of it was altered. The wings were lengthened and a new airfoil was designed, the intakes were completely redesigned to lower radar cross section, a new radar, and improved flight data systems.
The changes to RCS caused major problems during flight test that almost got the program killed - the flow over the wing would rapidly separate in high-g maneuvers. Minor differences in the flow conditions over each wing would cause asymmetric stalls, causing a violent rolling maneuver threatening the aircraft and pilot. Given an ultimatum to fix the problem in a month or have the contract terminated, the Boeing team was all hands on deck to find the problem, which required rapid turnaround on flight test and heavy use of computational fluid dynamics. The team narrowly identified and fixed the issue (reshape the leading edge), and the Super Hornet was deployed to the fleet in 2001.
The Super Hornet is used today by the United States Navy, as well as in the Royal Australian Air Force, where they acted as a stop-gap aircraft between the retirement of the Australian F-111 Aardvarks and the delayed acquisition of the F-35. In 2020, the Blue Angels transferred from flying Hornets to flying Super Hornets.
The KSP Recreation
Early this year, I had the opportunity to meet with one of the engineers who worked for McDonnell, and later Boeing, during the development of the Super Hornet. Over breakfast he shared many of his stories from the program, including his first trial by fire as the head of the budding CFD team in the company - as he said
before the program, nobody wanted to work with us CFD guys. They didn’t trust us. But the ultimatum gave us the chance to prove what CFD could do. (paraphrased) While it wasn’t CFD that finally cracked to code on how to prevent the issue, the test campaign was instrumental in expanding adoption of the techniques in the modern aerospace industry. (The quotations and explanations of the test program are based on my memory of the conversation, all errors are my own)
While the Super Hornet was an iteration through redesign of the original Hornet, so too is this replica. Two and a half years ago, I released my F/A-18C replica. It was an excellent representation of my ideal blend of part count, performance, and aesthetics, coming in at a smooth 400 parts and boasting detailed styling, excellent flight behavior, some functional greebles like a tailhook, detailed gear, and a air-to-air refueling boom. The aesthetics were also there, with edges smoothly blended and lined textures flowing cleanly from one part to the next. Each of those elements is present in my Super Hornet, but updated to the next generation. Several new parts are used which were not in the game back in 1.10, and the technique of using flags to blueprint had not been developed yet. Here too you will find another classic of my design - an all-flying Bendy-Tech stabilizer which I have tested in high-g maneuvers without failure.
The end result is a detailed aircraft which is a joy to fly - it handles beautifully (though a bit sluggishly in roll), packed with functionality and the charm of a classic design brought into the modern era.
- 1. Flaps
- 2. Slats
- 0. Air-to-air refulling boom
- Abort - tailhook
- F/B translate - pitch trim
- RCS - Afterburners
- Brakes, Lights, Gear
- V0: 65 m/s
- Top Speeds: - 200m/s dry - 250m/s hot
- Landing configuration:
- Flaps: down
- Slats: up
- Speed: 65 m/s