For almost 40 years, the Irish people endured a constant state of fear stemming from a low-level war that killed thousands of Irish civilians, British troops, and Irish fighters – all in a stunningly understated conflict called “The Troubles.” While British and U.K. loyalist forces were well-equipped and armed for the task, the Irish Republican Army, fighting for a united Ireland, had to improvise a little.
This is why “Irish Car Bombs” are a thing.
The Irish Republican Army was a homegrown paramilitary organization that was at best outlawed, and at worst, designated a terrorist organization. They were committed to a fully united Ireland by any means necessary and resisted the United Kingdom’s occupation of Northern Ireland, also by any means necessary. This usually meant improvised guns, bombs, and even mortars. That’s how they created what British troops called the Mark 15. The IRA called it the “Barrack Buster.”
Barrack Busters first started to appear in the IRA arsenal in the 1990s and was an improvised 36-centimeter mortar capable of firing three-foot-long propane tanks filled with high explosives. The Mark 15 was usually made of a cooking gas container created for use in rural areas of Ireland. It was capable of launching one of these powerful explosive containers nearly a thousand feet.
The IRA improvised mortars of various sizes and power, and hit not only military barracks, but bases and even 10 Downing Street.
The Mark 15 was described as having the effect of a flying car bomb, that has taken down barracks, helicopters, and even Royal Air Force planes. It was the fifteenth in a line of development that stretched as far back as the early 1970s. It was the largest homemade mortar developed by the Irish Republican Army. The development does stretch to a Mark-16, but that weapon was more of a recoilless rifle than it was a traditional mortar.
Introduction of the giant mortar did have an impact on British forces. The United Kingdom was forced to pull its checkpoints away from the Irish border after the introduction of the Mark 15 mortar. It was so effective as a weapon it was adapted for use by paramilitary forces in other countries and conflicts, including the FARC in Colombia and the Free Syrian Army in Syria.
Since 1969 the C-5 Galaxy has dwarfed all other airframes in the Air Force inventory. The C-5 Galaxy has provided the U.S. Air Force with heavy intercontinental-range strategic airlift capability capable of carrying oversized loads and all air-certifiable cargo, including the M-1 Abrams Tank.
Development and design
During the Vietnam War, the USAF saw the necessity of moving large amounts of troops and equipment overseas quickly. Lockheed was able to meet the ambitious design requirements of a maximum takeoff weight twice that of the USAF current airlifter, the C-141 Starlifter.
“We started to build the C-5 and wanted to build the biggest thing we could… Quite frankly, the C-5 program was a great contribution to commercial aviation. We’ll never get credit for it, but we incentivized that industry by developing [the TF39] engine,” said Gen. Duane H. Cassidy, former Military Airlift Command commander in chief.
The C-5 is a high-wing cargo aircraft with a 65-foot tall T-tail vertical stabilizer. Above the plane-length cargo deck is an upper deck for flight operations and seating for 75 passengers. With a rear cargo door and a nose that swings up loadmasters can drive through the entire aircraft when loading and offloading cargo. The landing gear system is capable of lowering, allowing the aircraft to kneel, making it easier to load tall cargo.
The C-5A Galaxy undergoing flight testing in the late 1960s.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The rear main landing gear can be made to caster enabling a smaller turning radius, and rotates 90 degrees after takeoff before being retracted.
The C-5 Galaxy is capable of airlifting almost every type of military equipment including the Army’s armored vehicle launched bridge or six Apache helicopters.
In the early 2000s, the Air Force began a modernization program on the C-5 upgrading the avionics with flat panel displays, improving the navigation and safety equipment and installing a new auto-pilot system. In 2006, the C-5 was refitted with GE CF6 Engines, pylons and auxiliary power units. The aircraft skin, frame, landing gear, cockpit and pressurization systems were also upgraded. Each CF6 engine produces 22 percent more thrust, reducing the C-5’s take off length, increasing its climb rate, cargo load and range. The new upgraded C-5s are designated as the C-5M Super Galaxy.
A 433rd Airlift Wing C-5 Galaxy begins to turn over the runway before landing Nov. 14 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.. The reserve aircrew of the “heavy” aircraft brought Army 7th Special Forces Group personnel and equipment to the base for delivery.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In the past four decades, the C-5 has supported military operations in all major conflicts, including Vietnam, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. It has also supported our allies, such as Israel, during the Yom Kippur War and operations in the Gulf War, and the War on Terror. The Galaxy has also been used to distribute humanitarian aid and supported the U.S. Space shuttle program.
On Oct. 24, 1974, the Space and Missile Systems Organization successfully conducted an Air Mobile Feasibility Test where a C-5 air dropped a Minuteman ICBM 20,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. The missile descended to 8,000 feet before its rocket engine fired. The test proved the possibility of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile from the air.
The C-5 was used during the development of the stealth fighter, the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, as Galaxies carried partly disassembled aircraft, leaving no exterior signs as to their cargo and keeping the program secret.
An air-to-air right side view of a 22nd Military Airlift Squadron C-5A Galaxy aircraft returning to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., after being painted in the European camouflage pattern at the San Antonio Air Logistics Center, Kelly Air Force Base, Texas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bill Thompson)
Did you know?
The cargo hold of the C-5 is one foot longer than the entire length of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk.
On Sept. 13, 2009, a C-5M set 41 new records and flight data was submitted to the National Aeronautic Association for formal recognition. The C-5M had carried a payload of 176,610 lbs. to over 41,100 feet in 23 minutes, 59 seconds. Additionally, the world record for greatest payload to 6,562 feet (2,000m) was broken.
A load team from the 352nd Maintenance Squadron, along with the crew of a C-5 Galaxy from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., loads a 21st Special Operations Squadron MH-53M Pave Low IV helicopter to be transported to the ‘Boneyard,’ or the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 5, 2007.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Tracy L. Demarco)
Primary Function: Outsize cargo transport
Prime Contractor: Lockheed Martin-Georgia Co.
Power Plant: Four F-138-GE100 General Electric engines
Thrust: 51,250 pounds per engine
Wingspan: 222 feet 9 inches (67.89 meters)
Length: 247 feet 10 inches (75.3 meters)
Height: 65 feet 1 inch (19.84 meters)
The C-5 Galaxy has been the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory since 1969.
(Graphic by Travis Burcham)
Height: 13 feet 6 inches (4.11 meters)
Width: 19 feet (5.79 meters)
Length: 143 feet, 9 inches (43.8 meters)
Pallet Positions: 36
Maximum Cargo: 281,001 pounds (127,460 Kilograms)
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 840,000 pounds (381,024 kilograms)
Speed: 518 mph
Unrefueled Range of C-5M: Approximately 5,524 statute miles (4,800 nautical miles) with 120,000 pounds of cargo; approximately 7,000 nautical miles with no cargo on board.
Crew: Pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers and three loadmasters
Capt. Grant Bearden (left) and Lt. Col. Timothy Welter, both pilots with the 709th Airlift Squadron, go over their pre-flight checklist in the C-5M Super Galaxy March 28, 2016, at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Reservists from Dover Air Force Base, Del., in the 512th Airlift Wing, conducted an off-station training event to satisfy most deployment requirements in one large exercise.
(U.S. Air Force photo by apt. Bernie Kale)
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Few British politicians are as controversial as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Still, it was incumbent upon foreign governments to protect her when she traveled abroad. When preparing to visit Japan for an economic summit, Thatcher received the strangest offer for protection – Japan wanted to protect the Iron Lady with a team of twenty “Karate Ladies.”
It may sound like a silly offer, but at the heart of it, the Japanese were doing their best to accommodate Thatcher on the basis of her gender. In June 1979, the British Prime Minister was due to visit Tokyo for an economic summit and Thatcher had just won the post of Prime Minister – the first woman in the United Kingdom’s history to hold the position. She beat out the male Labour candidate James Callaghan just one month prior. The Japanese public were interested in Maggie Thatcher’s status as Britain’s premier working mother.
Thatcher was not interested in attending the conference as a woman, but rather wanted to attend as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
“If other delegation leaders, for example are each being assigned 20 karate gentlemen, the Prime Minister would have no objection to this; but she does not wish to be singled out. She has not had in the past, and does not have now, any female Special Branch officers.”
Thatcher with Japanese Crown Prince Akihito.
Sir John Hunt, Thatcher’s Cabinet Secretary, raised the issue with his Japanese counterpart when discussing the Prime Minister’s security detail.
“Sir John said that Mrs. Thatcher will attend the summit as prime minister and not as a woman per se and he was sure that she would not want these ladies; press reaction in particular would be unacceptable.”
The bodyguard force was supposedly made up of 20 or so all-female bodyguards who were trained in unarmed combat, among other skills. Thatcher’s objection wasn’t to the offer of a security detail, but rather the idea of an all-female unit. They wanted to avoid the embarrassment of even getting such an offer, but the offer reached the British press anyway. Thatcher attended the 1979 summit, where no Karate Ladies were present or required.
Russia says its planning to design its own tilt-rotor aircraft like the US’ V-22 Osprey, according to The National Interest, citing Sputnik, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
“A tilt-rotor aircraft, or convertiplane, is planned to be created for Russian Airborne Forces,” Sputnik reported, citing a Russian defense industry source.
“Before the end of September 2018, it is planned to get the customer specification and start the experimental design work for this aircraft,” the source told Sputnik.
Russian defense contractor Rostec also said in 2017 that it was building an electric tilt-rotor aircraft, which it said would be completed in 2019.
Tilt-rotor aircraft are basically a hybrid of a helicopter and fixed-wing plane that has the speed and range of an airplane, but can also take off and land like a helicopter. The V-22 has a max cruising speed of 310 miles per hour.
The elite Russian Airborne Forces, or VDV, are often Moscow’s first troops on the ground, like in Afghanistan and more recently in Syria.
A V-22 Osprey with rotors tilted, condensation trailing from propeller tips.
Numbering about 35,000 troops in 2010, VDV paratroopers were also deployed to South Ossetia during the Russo-Georgian War in 2008, and they blocked NATO troops from seizing the Pristina International Airport during the Kosovo War.
The VDV are also different than US paratroopers in that they’re known to drop in with armored vehicles and self-propelled howitzers.
If Russia actually builds this tilt-rotor aircraft — a big if given Moscow’s budgetary problems and inability to mass produce other new platforms like the Su-57 stealth jet and the T-14 main battle tank — it could be a deadly addition to the VDV.
There are some important fundamentals underlying proper shooting techniques that involve cover and what we’ll refer to as half-assed cover, based on hard-learned lessons gleaned from nearly two decades of continuous warfare. And they all fall under the most important principle of patrolling — common sense. Yet, you’ll still see outdated, old-school techniques used in the field and presented all over social media. I always say, “my way isn’t the only way,” but I preach what’s worked for the Special Forces community during the recent wars — nothing validates doctrine and fundamentals like confirmation under fire. Regardless of what you take from this article, at a minimum, do the following: have an offensive mindset, limit your exposure to the enemy, think in terms of near and far, and use what you have to stabilize your shooting platform.
The corner of this building provides some cover as well as stability for sending more effective fire downrange. The author braces his support hand and rifle against the edge of the building.
Cover and mindset
First, let’s define cover as the term’s used in military doctrine. Cover is anything that provides protection from bullets, fragments, flames, and nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. Cover can be man-made or naturally occurring. Examples include logs, trees, ravines, trenches, walls, rubble, craters, and small depressions. What’s half-assed cover, then? Well, you really never know… Vehicles are half-assed cover for the most part, but hat’s a whole other topic in itself. And it’s far better to use half-assed cover than to just stand out in the open.
Remember, we don’t hide, we fight, and nothing will ever afford us complete protection. In conflict, you either fight or you hide, period — and we fight! Always maintain an offensive mindset and act accordingly.
Is a mud wall in Afghanistan thick enough to provide cover? Well it all depends where you’re situated. Will a PKM smoke right through it? If someone says you should simply move to a 100-percent solid structure and fight from there, well that’s just not possible in most circumstances. Perhaps you’re next to a wall, the side of a building, or a door frame. They may or may not stop that PKM round, but they’re often sturdy and can provide you some stability. So use what you have as support and deliver faster, more accurate follow-up shots. If you’re behind something, why not use it to support yourself and your firearm? If you’re not using cover to support your position, no matter if it’s half-assed or not, you’re doing it wrong. If you think there’s theory and science behind what bullets do when they ricochet, please show us a scientifically validated study. You can apply techniques based on theory or maintain that offensive mindset. The choice is clear.
Take the sh*t and stop playing peek-a-boo
This isn’t just my opinion, but also that of the Special Operations Forces community, and those who’ve taught in its school house and know what’s right. Years ago, we’d come up to an alleyway and pie it off in a slow, methodical movement. It involved baby steps to clear the alleyway at angles to limit exposure, and we didn’t use the available cover to support our firing position. Was it valid? Perhaps. But what about our shooting position? We weren’t using the edge of the wall to support our shooting platforms. Could we engage someone close? Hell yes, but we weren’t effective at longer distances and weren’t supporting what we currently teach and refer to as a 10-round-string stance; that’s a strong, stable fighting stance from which you can effectively and quickly put multiple rounds on target. We’ve found it’s far more effective and faster to just take the alleyway by force, and then post up on the side of the wall in a stable firing position and collapse that sector.
Being able to shoot with both your strong and support side dramatically reduces your exposure behind cover.
The next time you go to the range, put up a barricade and place targets at 10 to 40 and 70 meters away. Pie off the barricade, don’t support yourself, and shoot five rounds at each target while timing yourself. Next, take it by force, post up in a good stable firing position, use the barricade, and execute the same drill. Your hits will be far more accurate, and your time will be much faster. We’ve put in the time using simunitions and teammates playing the peek-a-boo technique — the bottom line is if someone’s waiting for you to break a corner or an alleyway, he’ll see you anyway. Bring a good solid supported stance and shove 10 rounds of lead down his throat rather than slowly pieing off the corner and giving up the extra stability.
There’s a time and place for the pieing technique — save that for CQB. We never know how far our threat will be, and we plan for the worst case. So stop pieing sh*t off. Take it by force and post up while you collapse your sector of that alleyway or when you turn the corner of a house on a raid.
If you’re fighting from behind something, use it. Using your piece of cover or even half-assed cover will further stabilize your firing platform. The goal is to put fast, accurate follow-up shots on target, so use what’s in front of you. It doesn’t matter if you have a rifle or a pistol. Yes, there are a lot of great shooters that could run up to a barricade or position of cover and crush targets without a support. That’s great when running drills on the flat range, but the flat range is not reality. Reality is when you’re pulling security in an isolation or containment position — you’ll definitely benefit from using what’s in front of you to support yourself for extended periods of time. Then add in stress, adrenaline, the dark of night, weather, fatigue, and maybe an injury, like being down to one arm or hand.
There’s no single, best way to support your carbine on a piece of cover. The key is to get meat between your weapon and what you’re using for cover. That means your hands; it’s not a good idea to support yourself with equipment connected to your blaster. There are some exceptions, like laying your carbine flat on its side at 90 degrees. You definitely don’t want the slide of a pistol touching anything; we all know what’ll happen — a lot of shooter-induced malfunctions. Place the meaty portion of your palm against cover and form an L to support and brace your rifle. Use your forearm to brace against awkwardly shaped pieces of cover or half-assed cover like the front end of a vehicle. With a pistol, dig your knuckles into cover or use your support thumb to hook onto cover as well. However, attempt to maintain a solid fundamental grip on the pistol, and don’t let the piece of cover totally support you.
Being able to shoot with both your strong and support side dramatically reduces your exposure behind cover.
Square up to your piece of cover as best as you can. This isn’t a USPSA or three-gun match where you can be off balance, rip off two shots, and haul ass to the next position. Establish a solid base, square up to cover, and remember our 10-round-string stance. Squaring up also keeps legs and knees in a tight position so teammates aren’t tripping over legs at night. Who knows how many others will need to share that piece of cover with you.
When kneeling, always keep the outside knee up. Right or wrong? It’s a technique we teach. It provides a stable platform to drop your arm and tuck it into your thigh. It also avoids legs sticking out and tripping teammates as they run past the alleyway you’re posted up on. So, square up and support your firing platform, and remember the 10-round-string stance, no matter what awkward position you might find yourself in.
Limit your exposure
Limiting exposure sounds like common sense, but what it really means is you need to be an ambidextrous gunfighter. People get small and seek cover when it’s raining lead. Whether standing or kneeling, squaring up helps — you don’t want to expose yourself needlessly, yet you must stabilize yourself to support that 10-round string of fire.
Vehicles are half-assed cover, but you should still use them as support.
First, don’t try to conceal yourself so much that you give up both a stable firing position and the ability to fight effecively. Remember, we must have an offensive mindset — we don’t hide. Second, you have to shoot strong and support side — don’t forget we don’t have a weak side (see issue 7 of CONCEALMENT for more on weak sides). If you’re on the left side of something, you should shoot from the left side of your body with a carbine. The same applies for the right side of cover. Your mindset and training philosophy should be to become fully ambidextrous, especially when it comes to shooting around cover. Put in the practice time on the range.
Oh sh*t vehicle tactics
Vehicles aren’t cover; they’re half-assed cover. Yet the philosophy of using them to support yourself still applies. Be offensive and seek better positions like the rear of the vehicle, the engine block, and axles. This philosophy comes from battlefield experience, and is presented as doctrine in SOF and law enforcement training. First, have you seen ballistic data on ricochets? Bullet type, distance, angle, and so on; there are too many factors that influence what bullets will do when they hit sh*t. We used to have beer shoots, skipping rounds off car hoods into the A zone of targets. We knew the distance and where best to try to aim, but the reality is that there’s no telling where that bullet will go.
Kneeling with the outside knee up provides a more stable shooting platform than the alternative. Always have an offensive mindset.
It’s fine to take these things into consideration, but you shouldn’t avoid using the vehicle to support yourself. Most vehicle interdictions in military terms are close range, but not all of them… and not all engagements are at close range. So apply the same techniques for shooting around vehicles as for around walls. Of course, if the bad guy’s 5 feet away, you don’t have to support yourself on a vehicle. But some say that ricochet theories dictate that you shouldn’t support yourself on a vehicle. In my book, that’s not an offensive mindset, and we should always have an offensive mindset.
Outside the vehicle
So, get up close and personal on the outside of your vehicle. Use it to support yourself and your shots. Yes, vehicles don’t stop bullets, but what about armored or military vehicles? Don’t correlate this all to vehicles, but the principles apply to both. If you’re in an engagement, using the engine block or front of the vehicle to fight from, why would you be 3 to 5 feet away from the vehicle? Then, how would you support yourself in a junkyard prone position on the hood? If your threat is 5 feet away, you don’t need support; but what if it isn’t? Think night; think far.
When shooting underneath a vehicle, get close to it.
Second, consider fighting in a hostile environment where threats are at the rooftop level. The further you move away from a vehicle, the more exposed you are. You also limit your fields of fire. Try backing away from a piece of cover, then shoot underneath or over it — you better have some good loophole math locked into memory to avoid putting rounds into your cover in a stressful situation! Shooting underneath a vehicle certainly reduces your situational awareness, but you might need to do it at some point. I’ve seen it before — it’s easy with a gun truck, not so easy under a BMW with the tires blown out. When you only have a couple inches to get it done, hug those axles and get that gun up underneath the vehicle to get your shots off. This becomes very difficult when you’re several meters from the vehicle.
Inside the vehicle
When fighting from a vehicle, there are certain areas of the vehicles that afford better protection than others. Probably not the front two seats, though shooting through the front windshield is a viable option, if needed.
When shooting through windshields, don’t be stingy.
I’ve shot numerous types of ammunition through windshields, from inside and out. There’s one rule to remember — P for Plenty, plenty of lead! No matter what type of ammunition you use, it’ll take multiple shots through the same hole to get good hits on target. If a threat’s approaching your vehicle and you must engage through the windshield, put a couple rounds into the same hole and then jam your muzzle into the hole. To adjust your aim and point of impact, move your body. Never walk rounds across the windshield; you won’t make the positive contact you need to eliminate the threat.
Contingencies of gunfighting
Should you ever find yourself injured and in an engagement when behind cover, or half-assed cover, you’ll need that platform to support yourself. Don’t train or think of the best case scenarios at all time. Train and develop techniques that apply to contingencies as well. When rounds are flying, it shouldn’t be your first time figuring out how to fire your pistol one handed from behind a wall or how to support yourself using the wall.
Get meat between your weapon and the support — with a pistol as shown here, you can dig your knuckles into the fender.
There aren’t any right answers when sh*t hits the fan and it’s raining lead. What you do and how you do it on the range is the answer. There are a lot of ways to do things, but if you’re fighting from behind cover (or half-assed cover), utilize the following four fundamentals.
Have an offensive mindset
Limit your exposure
Think near and far for engagements
Support yourself to provide a solid, 10-round string firing position
Also don’t forget common sense, one of the principles of patrolling. If it works at night, in the rain and cold, when you’re exhausted or injured, then you’re on the right track. Fast, accurate shots win the day. Prepare yourself to take advantage of what’s around you and practice supported shooting from behind cover. Apply the fundamentals and push forward; remember that on the range, everything is a rehearsal for something.
Photos by Blake Rea and RECOIL Staff
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
The U.S. Navy began taking delivery on the first Block III F/A-18 Super Hornets for testing last year, and while the jet may look strikingly similar to its predecessor on the outside, a peek inside the cockpit shows just how much this fighter has changed.
The new Block III Super Hornet promises to be as significant a jump in capability as the earlier transition from the Block I Hornet to Block II Super Hornet in the early 2000s. As a result, the new F/A-18 Super Hornet (called the Super “Duper” Hornet by some) will join the Air Force’s new F-15EX Eagle II in serving as among the world’s most advanced non-stealth fighters in operation today. In all, the U.S. Navy intends to purchase some 78 all-new Block III Super Hornets, while also upgrading its existing fleet of 550 or so jets to match.
Originally designed and built by McDonnell Douglas, the first F/A-18 Hornet took to the skies in 1978 and made its way into service as the U.S. Navy’s go-to carrier fighter in 1984. The Hornet design was intended to serve as a replacement for a variety of carrier aircraft, including the A-4 Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom IIs, while complimenting the dogfighting dynamo of the era, the famed F-14 Tomcat. The Hornet’s broad capability set and impressive performance made it a standout platform for both the Navy and Marine Corps, thanks in no small part to its multi-role focus. Indeed, it’s F/A prefix is indicative of this multi-role skillset, with F standing for Fighter and A standing for Attack.
By 1992, the U.S. Navy was ready to double down on the Hornet, but in order to keep up with the changing times, the aircraft needed a significant facelift. In truth, this new Super Hornet was a largely new aircraft that simply carried over the F/A-18 designation, in part, to convince Congress that the program was a cost-effective derivative effort, rather than a pricey clean-sheet design.
The change from Hornet to Super Hornet, which are also known as the Block I and Block II orders of this aircraft, was dramatic. The Block II Super Hornet, sometimes called the Rhino by pilots, is larger than its predecessor and has some standout design cues that you may not notice at first pass, but become hard to ignore once you’re familiar with these two fighters.
Those changes granted the Super Hornet 33% more internal fuel storage and 15,000 more pounds in maximum weight, allowing for a 41% increase in operational range. The changes inside the cockpit were dramatic too. The old physical keyboard was swapped out in favor of a touchscreen display, as well as the addition of an Engine Fuel Display (EFD) and Reference Standby Display (RSD). Those displays and others throughout the cockpit also went to full color, instead of the previous monochrome.
Other avionics tucked inside the fuselage were upgraded, including onboard radar (the Super Hornet was equipped with a APG-79 radar system that could keep track of more enemy aircraft and spot them from much further distances). In order to support this improved air-to-air capability, additional weapons stations for weapons like the AIM-120 were added, alongside improved radar warning receivers, a ALQ-214 jammer, and more chaff and flares than the Hornet could manage.
The legacy Hornet was still a capable fighter, however, and Marine Hornets remained aboard America’s flattops all the way until February of this year.
The Block III Hornet is flying straight into the 21st century
Last June, the U.S. Navy accepted delivery of its first two Block III Super Hornets for testing; a single-seat E-model and a two-seat F model. Both iterations of the new fighter have undergone significant upgrades and design changes over the Block II version of the jet, broken up into five major design features.
The Super Hornet cockpit has undergone a serious overhaul for Block III, incorporating a single touchscreen design in place of a litany of gauges and readouts.
“The advanced cockpit system (ACS) takes the legacy displays of the Block II and puts them all into one big touchscreen piece of glass that’s almost like an iPad interface for the pilot,” Jennifer Tebo, Boeing director of development for F/A-18 and EA-18G programs, explained.
The intent behind the streamlining of these screens isn’t to reduce the data available to pilots, but rather, to help manage it more effectively. Fighter pilots have to glean information from multiple screens and the world around them and then fuse it all together in their heads to develop a well-rounded concept of the battlespace they’re in. While flying supercomputers like the F-35 makes this process even easier for pilots, the Block III Super Hornet promises to bridge the gap between fourth-generation jets like the Super Hornet and computing powerhouses like the F-35.
“It’s customizable and expandable and you can set it to how you want your displays to show up every time you jump in the cockpit. I’m left-handed so I like my keypad on the left side with fuel and engine information on the right,” an unnamed Navy test pilot told Forbes last year.
Conformal Fuel Tanks
One of the most pressing issues facing the U.S. Navy in the 21st century is the lack of fuel range in its carrier-based fighters. Neither the existing Block II Super Hornet nor the advanced F-35C Joint Strike Fighter have the range they’d need to engage Chinese targets without placing their carriers in direct range of China’s hypersonic anti-ship missiles. As such, a slew of efforts are underway to pull more range out of these aircraft, including the development of the MQ-25 Stingray refueling drone for use on America’s flattops.
But in order to address this problem on the aircraft itself, the Block III Super Hornet includes the addition of conformal fuel tanks that add 3,500 pounds of fuel. These additional tanks are called “conformal” because they hug the fuselage of the fighter, limiting added drag. While this won’t be enough to offset the capability gap created by China’s anti-ship missiles, it is an important step in the right direction.
Earlier this year, Aviation Week reported that “technical, structural, and sustainment” issues had risen the anticipated cost of incorporating these conformal fuel tanks, placing their future in jeopardy. However, with the Navy concerned about the range of its existing fighters, it stands to reason that the service will find a way to work out these issues.
The Block III Super Hornet is leaning into the future of data with its Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) mission computer and its Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) data link. The DTP-N is 17 times more powerful than the existing mission computer aboard the Super Hornet, but more importantly, utilizes an open architecture that will allow for software to be changed or updated without having to actually replace any of the aircraft’s hardware.
All of that computer power will support the rest of the force in the area, not unlike the “quarterback in the sky” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, thanks to that TTNT data link.
According to Tebo, the TTNT “will allow all of the information to come into the jet from the battlespace that we need to be processed for decision making as well as pushing it back out to the rest of the air wing so that we can share common pictures of data and get better situational awareness,”
Advanced as these systems are, they are not on par with the F-35’s onboard systems, nor are they compatible, so the Block III Super Hornet will be forced to communicate with F-35s via the longstanding Link-16 tactical data link system.
Tougher to spot on radar
The F/A-18 was never designed to be a stealth fighter, and despite an improved radar cross-section, the Block III Super Hornet isn’t either. However, making it tougher to manage a weapons-grade lock on the new fighter has been a focus among Boeing designers, and although much of what has been done in this effort has been kept secret, reports indicate a serious improvement in minimizing detectability.
The Block III Super Hornet’s reduced radar cross-section won’t make it a “stealth” fighter, but like other less-than-perfect stealth jets, the intent may not be to completely evade detection, so much as delay engagement. Enemy fighters and surface-to-air missile platforms may be able to spot the Block III Super Hornet, but the goal is to impede securing a weapon’s grade lock to buy the aircraft time to escape or evade.
The Block II Super Hornets in operation for the U.S. Navy today are each rated for 6,000 flight hours, so it goes without saying that the past two straight decades of combat operations in the Middle East and elsewhere have wrought havoc on maintenance schedules and aircraft availability. In another one of those significant changes that are tough to spot with the naked eye, the Block III Super Hornet is rated for an additional 4,000 hours, bringing the total up to 10,000.
This is still a far cry from the F-15EX’s reported lifespan of 20,000 hours, but offers a significant jump over both existing F/A-18s and the F-35C, which is also rated for 6,000 hours.
This longer lifespan will make the new Block III Super Hornet a most cost-effective means of delivering air power than ever before, while also offering the Navy itself greater latitude in logistical planning.
Bonus Improvement: Infrared Search Track System
Technically not considered a “Block III” improvement, the addition of a centerline tank-mounted infrared search track system (IRST) in the Block III Super Hornet has been called “integral” for the capability of the fighter by Boeing officials.
This passive detection capability is aimed squarely at fifth-generation competitors like Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 or China’s Chengdu J-20. The IRST can be used to scan the horizon for radar-beating fighters, picking up on the infrared heat released by their jet engines without broadcasting a signal through space to tell others you’re on the hunt. This will give the non-stealth Block III Super Hornet a real fighting chance against stealthy jets, potentially spotting them against the sky backdrop from a hundred miles away.
It’s usually awesome when life imitates art – especially when that art form is an action movie. The good guys usually overcome big odds and the bad guys usually get put away. But cop life doesn’t work out like that sometimes. In the movies, when a cop is just days away from retirement, the audience knows he may not make it. But real life isn’t supposed to be like that.
Unfortunately for NYPD officer John William Perry, the morning he turned in his retirement papers was Sept. 11, 2001. And he wasn’t about to miss his calling that day.
John Perry was not your average New York cop. A graduate of NYU Law School, he had an immigration law practice before he ever went to the police academy. He was a linguist who spoke Spanish, Swedish, Russian, and Portuguese, among others. Not bad for anyone, let alone a kid who grew up in Brooklyn with a learning disability. He even joined the New York State Guard and worked as a social worker for troubled kids.
He was a jack of all trades, beloved by all. He even took a few roles as an extra in NY-based television and film.
He was appointed to the NYPD in 1993 and was assigned to the 40th Precinct, in the Bronx borough of New York. The morning of September 11, he was off-duty, filing his retirement papers at 1 Police Plaza. In his next career, he wanted to be a medical malpractice lawyer. That’s when someone told him about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Instead of leaving his badge, he picked it back up.
He dashed the few blocks to the scene and immediately began assisting other first responders with the rescue operation. Perry was last seen helping a woman out of the South Tower when it fell just before 10 a.m. that day.
“Apparently John was too slow carrying this woman,” said Arnold Wachtel, Perry’s close friend. “But knowing John, he would never leave that lady unattended. That was just like him to help people.”
Some 72 law enforcement officers and 343 FDNY firemen were killed in the 9/11 attacks that morning. John William Perry was the only off-duty NYPD officer who died in the attack. An estimated 25,000 people were saved by those who rushed to their aid, leaving only 2,800 civilians to die at the World Trade Center site. President George W. Bush awarded those killed in the attack the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor. Perry was also posthumously awarded the New York City Police Department’s Medal of Honor.
The destroyer USS Ward (DD 139/APD 16) is famous for being the first American ship to sink a Japanese vessel, a mini-sub, just hours before the main attack on Pearl Harbor. But less famous is the first American ship to sink a Nazi U-boat. That impact of that ship’s kill, incidentally, would reverberate over six decades later.
USS Roper shortly after she was commissioned in 1919. (US Navy photo)
That vessel was USS Roper (DD 147), a Wickes-class destroyer. Wickes-class destroyers were built during World War I and carried four four-inch guns, a single three-inch gun, and a dozen 21-inch torpedo tubes. These vessels were feeling their age as World War II bubbled up on the horizon but were pressed into service to hold the line until newer vessels came into the fleet.
According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the Roper had taken part in a variety of deployments in the peacetime Navy between World Wars. The vessel had been off Cape Cod when Pearl Harbor was attacked. After a quick refit, she was escorting convoys. Then came the fateful encounter.
On March 31, 1942, USS Roper rescued 70 survivors, including this mother and child. (US Navy photo)
U-Boat.net reports that on April 14, 1942, the Roper detected U-85 on the surface, about 20 miles from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, two weeks after rescuing 70 survivors from a sunken merchant ship. First, the destroyer opened fire, scoring a number of hits. As the fatally stricken U-boat slipped beneath the surface, the destroyer unleashed a salvo of depth charges to ensure a kill. None of U-85’s crew survived.
After that kill, the Roper still served, doing a number of convoy runs. Then, she was converted to a destroyer transport and re-designated APD 20. In 1945, she was damaged by a kamikaze. Repairs were still underway when Japan surrendered. She was sold for scrap in 1946.
The life of Ernest Hemingway is something most men only ever get to daydream about. He was an ambulance driver, wounded in action. He was a war correspondent, covering the Spanish Civil War and World War II (the man landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day in the seventh wave), he led resistance fighters against the Nazis in Europe, and even hunted Nazi submarines in the Caribbean with his personal yacht.
In your entire life, you’d be lucky to do one of the things Hemingway wrote about in his books. And one of the reasons his books are so good (among many) is because he wrote many of them from first-hand experience. He actually did a lot of the John-McClane, Die Hard-level stunts you can read about right now at your local library.
Think about it this way: His life was so epic that he won a Nobel Prize in Literature just for telling us the story.
Two world wars, two plane crashes, and the KGB couldn’t do him in. In a strange way, it makes sense that only he could end his own incredible life. This summer (or winter. Or whatever), celebrate your own inner Hemingway by having a few of his favorite beverages while standing at a bar somewhere.
He definitely invented some of these drinks. And might have invented others. But we only know for sure that he enjoyed them all.
Remember, according to the bartender on Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, no drink should be in your hand longer than 30 minutes.
Preferably served by the Florida Bar in Havana.
(Photo by Blake Stilwell)
1. The Daiquiri
It is necessary to start with the classic, because everyone knows the writer’s love for a daiquiri – it was as legendary then as it is today. His favorite bar in Havana even named a take on the classic cocktail after Hemingway but don’t be mistaken, that’s only an homage. The way the author really drank his cocktails is very different from what you might expect.
Nearly ever enduring cocktail recipe has its own epic origin story. The daiquiri is no different. Military and veteran readers might be interested to know the most prevalent is one of an Army officer putting the ingredients over ice in the Spanish-American War. But in truth, the original daiquiri cocktail is probably hundreds of years old. British sailors had been putting lime juice in rum for hundreds of years (hence the nickname, “limeys”).
A daiquiri is just rum, sugar, and lime juice, shaken in ice and served in a chilled glass.
2 oz light rum
3/4 oz lime juice
3⁄4 oz simple syrup
2. “Henmiway” Daiquiri
That’s not a typo, according to Philip Green’s “To Have and Have Another,” a masterfully-researched book about Hemingway and his favorite cocktails and the author’s drinking habits, that’s how this take on the classic daiquiri was written down by bartender and owner of Hemingway’s Floridita bar, Constantino Ribalaigua. Hemingway was such a regular at the bar by 1937 that Ribalaigua wanted to name a drink after him.
2 oz white rum
Tsp grapefruit juice
Tsp maraschino liqueur
Juice of 1/2 lime
The version above is served up, while a tourist version, the Papa Doble, is served blended.
2 1/2 oz white rum
Juice 1/2 grapefruit
6 Tsp maraschino liqueur
Juice of 2 limes
But Papa Hemingway (as he was called) didn’t like sweet drinks. When he had a daiquiri at Floridita, he preferred them blended but with “double the rum and none of the sugar.” Essentially, Hemingway enjoyed four shots of rum with a splash of lime juice.
Drink one with a friend, repeat 16 times to be more like Ernest Hemingway.
3. Dripped Absinthe
Absinthe is a liquor distilled with the legendary wormwood, once thought to give absinthe its purported hallucinogenic effects. Who knows, it might have really had those properties, but today’s absinthe isn’t the same kind taken by writers and artists of the 19th century; the level of wormwood they could cram into a bottle was much, much higher then. What you buy today would not be the same liquor Robert Jordan claimed could “cure everything” in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Absinthe is prepared in a way only absinthe can be — with ice water slowly dripped over a sugar cube, set above an absinthe spoon and dripped into the absinthe until it’s as sweet as you like. The popularity of absinthe cocktails is still prevalent in places like New Orleans, where the bartenders keep absinthe spoons handy. No one would have the patience to wait for an Old Fashioned made this way, but for absinthe, its well worth the effort.
If you’re looking for a wormwood trip, though, you may need to distill your own.
Papa Hemingway didn’t garnish.
4. Hemingway’s Bloody Mary
There are a number of origin stories for the Bloody Mary — and one of them involves Ernest Hemingway not being allowed to drink. According to one of Hemingway’s favorite bartenders, the author’s “bloody wife” wouldn’t let him drink while he was under the care of doctors. In Colin Peter Field’s “Cocktails of the Ritz Paris,” Field says bartender Bernard “Bertin” Azimont, created a drink that didn’t look, taste, or smell like alcohol.
How the author would feel about bacon-flavored vodka, strips of bacon served in the drink, or any modern variation on the bloody, (involving bacon or otherwise) is anyone’s guess.
Hemingway recovering from his wounds in a World War I hospital with a bottle of stuff that can “cure everything.” The afternoon would have to wait.
5. Death In The Afternoon
Want to drink absinthe, but don’t have the patience for the drip spoons? You aren’t alone. But you still need to figure out how to make the strong alcohol more palatable (go ahead and try to drink straight absinthe. We’ll wait.). Ready for a mixer?
Hemingway called on another one of his favorite beverages for this purpose: champagne. Hemingway loved champagne. You might love this cocktail, but you’ll want to be ready for what comes next. Champagne catches up with you. But that’s a worry for later.
After a few of these, you’ll be brave enough to do some bullfighting yourself (the subject of Hemingway’s book, “Death in the Afternoon.” But be warned, like most champagne cocktails, they go down smooth… but you might need that pitcher of Bloody Mary the next morning.
1 1/2 shots of absinthe
4 oz of champagne (give or take)
In a champagne glass, add enough champagne to the absinthe until it “attains the proper opalescent milkiness,” according to author Philip Greene’s book. But that “proper” was for Hemingway. You may want to adjust your blend accordingly.
6. El Definitivo
This drink is designed to knock you on your ass. Hemingway and his pal created it in Havana in 1942 to win baseball games.
No joke. During these games, essentially little league games, the kids would run the bases while the adults took turns at bat. It turns out Hemingway had a running rivalry with a few of the other parents. But he wasn’t about to get into a fistfight about it like some people might. He had a much better, more insidious plan.
In “To Have and Have Another,” author Philip Greene describes how Hemingway created “El Definitivo” to just destroy other little league parents. But he liked them, too (the drink, that is) — and was often sucked in under its spell with everyone else.
1 shot of vodka
1 shot of gin
1 shot of tequila
1 shot of rum
1 shot of scotch
2 1/2 oz tomato juice
2 oz lime juice
Serve over ice in a tall, tall glass. Get a ride home from little league.
People often associate the military with fighting wars, which makes complete sense. The infantry, which is the spearhead of the military, is the primary combat job. So, one might would think infantrymen are in every country upon which the United States is dropping bombs. The truth is: they’re not. In fact, chances are, they’re stuck on a boat, an island, or in a porta-john waiting for the next war to pop off so they can play in the big leagues.
Being in the infantry between wars is a lot like being on a professional sports team that only ever goes to practice. Realistically, the United States has been at war for quite some time, but what people don’t know is that infantry probably aren’t involved in that war.
Here’s what they’re doing instead:
It might be accurate to assess military life as 80% waiting. Hell, most of the time you spend in boot camp is in lines.
Whether it’s in a line, in the field, or in a barracks room, the infantry is stuck waiting. Always. Waiting. Anthony Swafford, author of Jarhead, truthfully wrote, “…we wait, this is our labor.” If that doesn’t define “peacetime” military life, what does? The fact of the matter is that you’ll spend most of your time waiting for something and no one knows what that something is, not even your command.
You’ll probably spend more time holding a broom than a rifle, honestly.
Everyone knows veterans are extremely organized and are good at keeping things clean. That’s because we spend so much of our time cleaning everything that it becomes habit. In the military, you even clean things that can’t be cleaned. In fact, most of what you do is polish turds, considering military barracks (specifically those of the Marine Corps) haven’t been renovated since the day they were built.
This isn’t for everyone, but quite a few people pick up the habit because it’s a great time killer. Remember how we said you spend 80% of your career waiting? Well, if you pick up smoking, you’ll bring that down to 70% and use that other 10% to smoke as you combat the boredom of waiting.
Whether it’s a three-hour lecture on sexual assault, the importance of wearing a seat belt, or why the desert tortoise is sacred at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (a.k.a. Twentynine Palms), you’re going to sit in the base theater for an entire day listening to one commander “piggy back” off another.
Don’t worry, there will be porta-johns in-country.
‘Appreciating’ adult films
If you don’t pick up smoking, you might instead find yourself killing time in a porta-john doing this. If you’re at Twentynine Palms during the summer (or in general), you might even challenge yourself to see if you can complete your “mission” before you pass out in the porta-john.
Just to be clear, this will probably be in addition to killing your lungs.
You’ll probably play a video game where you portray someone doing your job, too.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ash Severe)
Remember what we said about waiting in a barracks room? This is what you’ll probably do during that time. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a leadership position or if you’re a boot rifleman (if you’re a boot, you should study instead), you’ll be killing time by playing video games. When you’re taking a break from that, you’ll probably be doing #3 or #5 instead.
Just make sure one of the first things you do in your unit is buy a small T.V. and game system or a highly efficient laptop. Even if you go on a combat deployment, you might be able to take it with you to kill time between patrols or other duties.
It was June of 1938 when the world first got their hands on Action Comics #1. This new, featured character, Superman, embodied all that was good about the United States. He fought for truth, justice, and the American way. For a whole ten cents, kids could get their own issue, read fantastic stories, and escape from the harsh realities of the Great Depression. But comics found a secondary audience — young adults who were also looking for an fantastical escape from the bleak world around them.
Comic sales suffered alongside the economy at large. Kids simply couldn’t fork over ten cents every week and the entire industry was almost kneecapped before it could became the multi-billion dollar business it is today.
Everything changed on December 20, 1940 (cover-dated for March, 1941) — an entire year before the attack on Pearl Harbor — when another superhero, named Captain America, hit the shelves. He donned star-spangled colors, and the very first public-facing image of Cap featured him delivering a swift punch directly to Hitler’s jaw.
Sales rose into the millions — but not because of kiddies with spare dimes. The audience that bought en masse was, unsurprisingly, the very demographic that wanted to knock Hitler out themselves: the 24-year-old men being shipped off to war.
The creators knew their audience, and they found ways to show their support for the troops in nearly every issue.
Despite comic books’ reputation of being pulpy kids’ fiction, troops, at the time, became the primary consumers. Comics were the perfect rucksack stuffer. They were small, easy to fold or roll, and could be fit into anything. You could read it once, share it around, and then enjoy it again when it circled back around. If they got damaged or destroyed, it was fine because it only cost ten cents.
The heroic stories within took troops’ minds temporarily off of the war in front of them. Comic books had mastered escapist fantasy during the Great Depression — and that came in handy among troops fighting in WWII.
Lucky troops could find the newest issues of their favorite series around Europe — most often when in England, before heading back into the fray. But troops would also often request comics in care packages from back home.
These comics were often printed on higher quality paper so they could withstand the trials of daily military life.
(David McKay Co.)
It wasn’t just the stories of Superman and Batman fighting the good fight back home that connected with the troops. In fact, Captain America was a super-soldier fighting in the same war as the audience for the same reasons against the same enemy.
But the superheroes we love today didn’t steal the show. Non-fiction series stood above them during that era.
In these comics, the characters had no superhuman powers. They weren’t fighting some devious, otherworldly villain. These comics featured real stories told by the troops who were fighting. It wasn’t uncommon for GIs in Europe to enjoy the comics about actions in the Pacific Theater, like Guadalcanal Diary, or for island-hopping Marines to read about the U.S. soldiers in France, in comics like USA Is Ready.
One man in particular, Bob Kanigher, used his first-hand experience on the front lines to give the veteran comic book readers arguably one of the finest stories in the medium: Sgt. Rock of Easy Company.
The troops’ love of comic books continued well after many made the transition back into civilian life. From then on, the lion’s share of the comic book marketplace featured more mature themes, like crime, supernatural horror, and war — things that returning veterans would enjoy.
This came into direct conflict with a narrative that insisted comic books were for kids. The Comics Code Authority went into effect in 1954, censoring all the “foul” stuff veterans came to love. Comic sales plummeted. This should have been the final nail in the coffin for the medium — but it wasn’t, not by a long shot.
World War II veterans who had read and loved all the stories during wartime elbowed their way into the industry, giving rise to the Silver Age of comic books. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Syd Shore, Alice Marble, Curt Swan, and Bob Kanigher all served their country in the second World War. Together, they brought comic books back into the spotlight, steering them to the bright future they enjoy today.
In January 1991, a British Special Air Service (SAS) team was helicoptered into Iraq by Chinook helicopter. In just a few days, U.S. and coalition forces would launch Operation Desert Storm’s air war to devastate Saddam Hussein’s army as it occupied Kuwait.
Eight men from the SAS detachment, code-named Bravo Two Zero, were to insert into Iraq and set up an observation post to monitor Iraq’s main supply route into Kuwait. The men of Bravo Two Zero proceeded on foot 1.2 miles from their landing zone.
Right away, things began to go wrong. To escape capture, torture and an uncertain fate, one of the British special operators would have to walk out of there toward Syria – 190 miles away.
The first thing that went wrong for the SAS was their communications. While their home base was receiving their transmissions, nothing was coming back from the British headquarters. The men pressed on.
But they never made it to the would-be observation post. On the way, the team was discovered by a shepherd and, believing they had been seen, the team ditched much of their gear and hightailed it out of the area.
As they moved, they began to hear the telltale rumble of treads on the ground. Believing they were encountering an Iraqi tank, the SAS prepared for an ambush. Only it wasn’t a tank, it was an Iraqi construction bulldozer – and the driver was as shocked as the SAS was.
When the driver left, the British knew the jig was up but the next time they encountered heavy vehicles, it was no construction crew. Iraqi armored vehicles had caught up to them and were in such close pursuit that the British soldiers had to fire at their pursuers to slow them down.
Iraq troops soon joined the APCs in their pursuit of the British as they humped it back to their original entry point, hoping a helicopter would soon find them. But the helicopter never came. By Jan. 24th, 1991, the group was on its way to the emergency exfiltration route… north to Syria.
Since the British were looking for the soldiers to be headed south toward Saudi Arabia, the SAS were never going to be seen by coalition aircraft unless it was by accident. Even after the group got split up during a dark night, they pressed onward and northward.
Along the way, the men tried to hijack a vehicle but Iraqi Army checkpoints hampered their progress and the walk continued. Eventually, two of the men would die of exposure in the Iraqi desert. Another was shot and killed by Iraqi civilians. Five were captured, interrogated and tortured before being released to the International Red Cross. One of the men. Colin Armstrong, kept walking.
He walked through Iraq until he reached the Syrian border, where Syria – then a coalition ally – took him into custody and released him to the United Kingdom. After his long trek through the dry desert, he had lost 36 pounds and suffered radiation poisoning after drinking contaminated water. He was awarded the Military Medal for his escape.
Armstrong would later chronicle his desert journey under the pen name Chris Ryan, along with a number of other books. The story of Bravo Two Zero was later made into a TV movie starring Sean Bean (who survives).
“Something I’d like to see in the future is an article talking about the performance of the Hornet versus the Super Hornet. I often times see people comment that the legacy Hornet is more maneuverable than the Super, but I’d like to see an article by someone who has stick time in both who knows what they are talking about. Perhaps G.M. would be interested in this topic since he has flown both?”
Awesome question! This is a question I used to ask a lot while going through flight school. I am truly fortunate to have experience flying both jets. They are both awesome machines with tremendous capability, but you’ll see why I prefer the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet by the time you finish reading.
Keep in mind that these thoughts are just my opinions and dozens of others have had the chance to fly both jets (although I’d say that most of those people would agree with most of these points).
It is hard to believe that the Rhino has been flying for 20 years. The Super Hornet is a bit paradoxical to describe in relation to the Hornet because while it is evolutionary and looks similar (both inside and out), it is largely a new aircraft. When Boeing pitched the Super Hornet to Congress they said the jet would keep the same F/A-18 designation and use numerous common parts with the Legacy Hornet.
This economical argument helped Boeing win the contract. I am glad they did, because the Super Hornet is a much improved aircraft over its predecessor. Among the aircraft’s general improvements include: more powerful engines controlled by FADEC, much larger internal and external fuel capacity, 2 more weapons stations, numerous avionics improvements, and some radar cross-section (RCS) reduction measures.
Besides the obvious larger size, you can distinguish the Rhino from the Legacy with some key design features; mainly the enlarged Leading Edge Extension (LEX), “sawtooth” outer wing, and larger rectangular intakes. All of those design features not only make the jet look badass, but enhance the jets’ capabilities too. We’ll talk about all of that in a bit.
You can take a newly qualified Legacy Hornet pilot, put him into the cockpit of the Rhino, and he will be able to start-up, takeoff, and land. It is that similar from a basic airplane standpoint. There are some very subtle changes to some of the switches and procedures, but outside of that, the ground ops are very similar. Folding the wings is easier in the Rhino (not that it was that hard before), and the only thing that may trip up a transition pilot will be the use of the Up Front Control Display (UFCD).
The UFCD replaces the old physical keypad in the cockpit for entering data. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you do, you’ll find it to be a huge upgrade. Think of it like going from a flip phone with a physical keyboard and screen, to an iPhone where the screen can show you anything you want. Another nice feature in the cockpit is the Engine Fuel Display (EFD), and Reference Standby Display (RSD) on the new Super Hornets.
You would also notice the full color cockpit displays instead of the monochrome displays of the Hornet. These all add a nice touch of technology to the cockpit that is not only ergonomic, but also adds to the cool factor. Once you’ve entered your data and have the motors fired up, the high performance Nose Wheel Steering works exactly the same as it did before as you head towards the runway.
You’ll get your first taste of the Rhino’s improved performance when you push the throttles past the MIL detent and into afterburner. A fully functioning FADEC always provides the pilot with the requested thrust and the much larger intakes can feed a much higher amount of air into the compressors. When you combine those factors with the larger wings you get fantastic takeoff performance (I know, Mover–still not the same kick in the pants as the Viper).
The Super Hornet gets airborne in nearly 1,000 feet less distance and nearly 20 knots slower than the Hornet. On the ship, the procedures are nearly the same as they were in the legacy Hornet, except now the catapult launch is in full flaps and there is no selection of afterburner mid-catstroke. There can still be afterburner shots for certain weights and configurations, but some of those procedures have slightly changed.
The sensation of catapult stroke is the same as before (i.e awesome). The jet tends to leap off the flight deck easier than the old Legacy, too. I haven’t flown a tanker configured jet from the ship yet, but I hear that the cat shot for that is as intense as they come.
One of my favorite improvements in the Rhino is the gas. There’s a lot more gas. SO MUCH MORE GAS! Most Cessna drivers take it for granted the endurance they have in their aircraft. They have endurance that a Legacy hornet couldn’t hope to achieve without aerial refueling. With about 4,000 more pounds of internal fuel and larger external tanks, I feel comfortable flying the Super Hornet without gluing one eye to my fuel quantity.
Gas was precious when flying the Charlie (worse in the Delta during my initial training). This was especially true around the boat when you had to wait for a specific time to land unlike at an airfield. This gas is huge for tactical training, cross-countries, and combat missions.
Although, there is still no capability to fly a civilian ILS in the Super Hornet, RNAV capability was recently added to the Rhino fleet. Also, while the Legacy Hornet could only hold a few dozen preplanned waypoints, the Rhino can hold hundreds.
Flight characteristics when flying from Point A to Point B are the same as in the Legacy. All of the same autopilot modes exist, and all of the displays including the HUD have virtually identical symbology. There is also no physical speedbrake on the Super Hornet. When the speedbrake switch is activated, the flight control computers deflect the flight controls to maximize drag while minimizing any pitching moments.
There’s really not much to talk about here. The two jets are very similar when it comes to the administrative phases of flight.
There are some small subtle differences with landing the Rhino at the field. The autothrottles, should you choose them, are mechanized a little bit differently. In short, it judges the magnitude of the rate of stick movement, vice the magnitude of distance of stick movement. In short, both jets’ autothrottles are awesome, but I think the Legacy takes the cake on that one. The Rhino lands about ten knots slower than the Hornet, thanks to the large LEXs and wings. Unlike the Hornet, the Rhino has a nice ability to aerobrake if you hold the nose off the ground after touchdown. The jet’s beefy brakes get you to a quick stop as well, should you need them.
At the ship, the Rhino wins the landing competition easily. With the slower approach speed, large wings, and more powerful engines, glideslope corrections are faster and easier. Not only that, but thanks to a new symbol in the HUD called the power carat, the pilot is much more easily able to fine tune his ball-flying technique. To me, the boat landing feels slightly less like a car crash than it did in the Hornet, but by no means is it a glassy smooth event. I always used to go to full afterburner on touchdown in the Hornet, but that is strictly verboten in the Rhino. If you see one do that on YouTube, he’s wrong.
Finally, a huge improvement for the Rhino is the “bringback” capability. Its robust design and large gas tanks allow the pilot to land with more weapons unreleased. In a Hornet loaded up with bombs, it may only have enough gas for a couple of tries to land on the ship before having to tank airborne or divert. The Rhino is able to land with much more fuel, allowing for both more heavy loadouts at launch and for more landing attempts at recovery.
Now to FINALLY answer the questions that the reader probably intended to ask! How well does the jet do what it was built to do: fight in combat. In nearly every metric, I would argue that the Super Hornet beats its predecessor in air-to-air combat. I write the word “nearly” intentionally, but we’ll get to that later.
In a beyond-visual-range (BVR) fight, it’s not even close, especially when the Rhino is equipped with the APG-79 radar. This AESA radar is truly phenomenal. With the ability to see at farther ranges and track more targets at once, it truly presents a clear picture of exactly what is in front of the pilot. Not only that, but the radar can be run simultaneously in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes.
With additional weapons stations under the wings, even more AIM-120 AMRAAMs can be brought into the fight, and with the extra gas, can fight for longer. Survivability is also drastically better thanks in part to an advanced countermeasures suite and reduced RCS. The jet can carry more chaff and flares, has a powerful ALQ-214 jammer, an upgraded radar warning receiver, as well as options for towed decoys.
All of the Link 16 capabilities of the Hornet have been carried over and all of these features combined make the Rhino very formidable. However, there is something negative that can be said. The Super Hornet’s pylons are canted outboard very slightly, significantly increasing drag at high speeds. Also, for you nerds out there, the Rhino’s design doesn’t incorporate the Area Rule as well as the Hornet, meaning that the Super Hornet will have lower transonic acceleration performance and lower top speed.
In the within-visual-range (WVR) arena, we finally arrive at the original question: which is more maneuverable? In my opinion, I’d say the edge goes to the Hornet….slightly. Both jets have excellent handling characteristics, and to be honest, they feel very similar. If both aircraft have no external wing stores attached, the Hornet will have a noticeably crisper roll rate, but not by much. It is recommended for both aircraft that to get the best roll performance, they roll unloaded.
That is to say, roll while minimizing positive G. It is just a little bit tougher to get there in the Rhino than the Legacy; the Rhino requires a much more deliberate push forward of the stick to unload than the Hornet. However, both aircraft have excellent high angle-of-attack/slow-speed maneuvering, and both jets have excellent flight control logics, such as the “Pirouette.”
An additional logic was built in for the Rhino called Turbo Nose Down. As funny as that sounds, it is an important logic that allows the jet to recover from a slow-speed, nose-high attitude much easier by flaring the rudders and raising the spoilers. At lower altitudes, the Rhino’s engines produce much more thrust than the Hornet’s. This allows for improved energy addition and sustained turn rate. Maintaining airspeed while pulling high G is much easier than it was before. At higher altitudes, however, both aircraft have a little bit of a hard time with energy addition.
In summary, if I had to choose which aircraft to dogfight in, I’d pick a “big motor” legacy Hornet, with it’s crisper maneuverability and enhanced thrust. However, both aircraft utilize the AIM-9X Sidewinder and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), so as I usually say, it comes down to the “man in the box.”
In the air-to-surface environment, there are not too many differences between the jets. Both aircraft use the JHMCS and ATFLIR. However, the Rhino’s APG-79 allows for synthetic aperture radar mapping, or SARMAP. When I first saw this I couldn’t believe it; the radar was painting the ground and displayed an image as good as the ATFLIR.
The same inventory of smart weapons are available to both aircraft. Just like in air-to-air, the Rhino can carry more thanks to more weapons stations.
As far as the “dumb” weapons are concerned, the Rhino actually carries a few less rounds in the M61 20mm cannon than the Legacy. The Rhino also can’t carry unguided rockets, as I have previously mentioned. When it comes to delivering general purpose bombs, such as the MK 82 series, the roll-ins are a little more sluggish in the Super Hornet. This is all in the same vein of what we discussed in air-to-air: the Legacy is a little crisper.
In an interdiction or strike mission, all of the Rhino’s survivability that I mentioned earlier makes it by far the aircraft of choice in a non-permissive environment. Going against a robust IADS, the reduced RCS and advanced countermeasures, coupled with my Growler buddies from the Ready Room next door help take a little bit of the edge off. Link 16 technology is the same in both aircraft and is still awesome technology.
I’d take the Rhino in all air-to-surface missions, in both permissive and non-permissive environments.
Something the Rhino can do that the Hornet can’t is be an aerial tanker. I personally have not flown one in that configuration, but I hear that the jet performs as a pig. That is no surprise with all of that drag and 30,000 pounds of gas. As an LSO, I can tell you a “5-wet” tanker is much more prone to settle below glideslope behind the ship and requires a bit more reaction time to get back above glideslope. The mission is important, however, and has provided me both mission gas and recovery gas during an emergency at the ship.
Aerial refueling is pretty much the same as in the Hornet, except it takes longer to top off.
Overall, the Hornet was my first love. I’ll always look back fondly on flying the F/A-18C and often times I miss it. However, there is no doubt the Rhino is the jet I want to fly off the boat into combat. Great question, keep them coming!