Boeing wants to retire the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the unworthy successor of the F-14 Tomcat

With the rise of China and Russia, F-14 Tomcat-style aircraft have recently regained significance

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The F/A-18 Super Hornet, a fighter plane featured in the most current instalment of the movie Top Gun, will be discontinued by Boeing Inc. soon. The legendary fighter plane’s production run will end after approximately 2,000 aircraft were delivered over forty years. According to a statement released by Boeing on Thursday, the aircraft maker warned that it intends to stop production of the new F/A-18 fighter jets by the end of 2025, following the delivery of the last fighters to the United States Navy.

As a sort of farewell symphony, the company has mentioned that the manufacturing of the Super Hornet could be extended until 2027 if an overseas purchaser decides to go that route. The iconic fighter plane competes with the Rafale for the Indian Navy, but the Indian media has been making more and more statements in favour of the Rafale Marine in recent weeks. This is because the Rafale Marine is better suited to the country’s newly constructed aircraft carrier.

Redirecting efforts towards the new developments

The organisation makes it clear in the press release that it will undoubtedly keep all of the capabilities required to modernise and maintain the F/A-18 fleet in the decades to come, including for the mid-life modification programmes of the aircraft in service. Since the F/A-18 was first introduced in 1983, Boeing has delivered over 2,000 Hornets, Super Hornets, and EA-18G Growlers to customers worldwide. These customers include the United States Navy and the navies of Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, and Switzerland.

According to Boeing, the company’s decision to discontinue production on the Super Hornet assembly line will enable it to reallocate resources to support the development of future military aircraft programmes. The aircraft producer has denied any desire to cut the airfoil in military aeronautics and has also said that it wants to boost its personnel in Saint Louis over the next five years.

It goes so far as to say that it will construct three new facilities to accommodate future human and unmanned aircraft. Around 1,500 workers who were assigned to the F-18 will have their skills retrained to work on other ongoing projects. These projects include continuing production of the F-15, the latest version of which, the F-15EX Eagle II fighters, is highly desired by Israel; increasing production of the world’s first military training aircraft, the T-7A Red Hawk; developing a refuelling drone called the MQ-25 Stingray for the United States Navy; and increasing production of the T-7A Red Hawk. According to the spokesperson for the organisation, the group is considering other initiatives that the United States government is considering.

A new chapter in the history of aviation is about to begin

The Super Hornet is the second aircraft produced by Boeing to be taken out of service this month. On February 1, the Arlington, Virginia-based aircraft manufacturer delivered its final 747 widebody. Since the defence division of Boeing merged with that of McDonnell Douglas in 1997, the fighter has been an important franchise for the company. The F/A-18 Hornet was the first aircraft to have wings made of carbon fibre, and it was also the first tactical jet fighter to be equipped with digital flight controls when McDonnell Douglas initially designed it in the 1970s.

In 1983, the Hornets were sent into active service for the first time, and they quickly came to symbolise the power of the United States Navy. During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, they served on aircraft carriers belonging to the United States Navy and played an important part. Ten years later, they supplied continuous combat coverage in Afghanistan. 1999 saw the Super Hornet’s introduction, an expanded model with more potent engines than its predecessor. Tom Cruise flew this legendary aircraft in the most recent instalment of the Top Gun film series, Maverick. It will be progressively replaced by the F-35 of Lockheed Martin Corp., an innovative development that the United States government now backs.

Tomcats to Hornets

It is debatable whether or not the F-18 Hornets were a worthy successor to the F-14 Tomcats that served in the United States Navy. Due to the end of the Cold War and diminishing financing, the United States Navy could not sustain the F-14 fighter. In addition, due to the fall of the Soviet Union, the Tomcat’s primary duty – the protection of aircraft carriers – became obsolete, and the aircraft was increasingly deployed as an assault aircraft. While the F-14 performed well in its new mission, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was generally superior to the ageing Tomcat. In particular, the F / A-18E / F were more reliable and efficient, and its avionics were significantly more advanced. Unfortunately, Super Hornet cannot replace all the voids left by the decommissioning of the F-14. The F/A-18E/F is a potent combat aircraft, but it could be better. Priority is given to speed and range.

With the rise of China and Russia, F-14 Tomcat-style aircraft have recently regained significance.

China is developing potent anti-ship cruise missiles launched from aircraft and the aircraft that will deliver them. Russian bombers, inactive since the fall of the Soviet Union, have returned to combat patrol routes, albeit in a diminished number. In addition, Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft equipped with cruise missiles capable of flying at extraordinarily high altitudes and speeds have appeared. The US Navy could have utilised the F-14 Tomcat to tackle these threats. The F/A-18E/F can also complete the task, although it will be less efficient.

The United States Navy seeks a new fighter aircraft with superior speed and range over the Super Hornet. After 2040, the new aircraft could replace the F/A-18E/F.

The F/A-18E/successor fighters are anticipated to have comparable speed and range to the F-14. Nevertheless, this is where the similarities end, considering the Tomcat was an old and unreliable aircraft. After the decommissioning of the F-14 Tomcat, the innovations will help fill in some of the gaps left in the US Navy’s air wing organisation.


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