Impressive performance from an F/A-18F Super Hornet

I hadn’t previously thought of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet naval strike fighter as being particularly maneuverable, or particularly good at aerial dogfighting.  However, this demonstration by an F/A-18F (the two-seat variant), fully loaded with 8 air-to-air missiles, is pretty convincing.  As the pilot points out, it’s like flying with a big SUV strapped beneath the aircraft;  yet it handles the weight with ease, and he’s able to throw it around in cavalier fashion.

Watch the video in full-screen mode for best results.

I’d still put money on an F-15E Strike Eagle to outmaneuver the Super Hornet, but given top-notch pilots in both planes, it’d be a close-run thing.



  1. Strictly speaking, the Super Hornet would probably fair better against an F-15E than an F-15C.
    There a significant weight difference between the E and C models (81k v 61k MTO which gives you a rough baseline wwhen calculating wingloading). I point that out because I was surprised that by that diffence. Makes sense though becaus the E model replaced the F-111 and has a beefier airframe and second crewman (WSO) for the low level penetration strike role.
    Another interesting difference is more of a human factors thing. Yes, cosmetically both are F-15s but C model drivers do nothing in traininig but train for the Air-to-air role. The E model guys train mostly in air-to-delivery tactics and spend a small amount of training time on BFM/ACM. I talked to an E model driver that told me, in BFM/ACM "we're the fat kid" meaning the E's weight does make a noticible difference in raw BFM/ACM performance.
    Any interesting differences between 2 variants of roughly the same airplane and as such I give the F/A-18F (with a 66k MTO) a slight edge, in terms of performance, in a fight against the E model.

  2. Peter?

    Remember there were originally to be the F-18 and the A-18, sharing
    everything but the avionics. There is even an actual F-18A, now
    grounded from wear and on display.

    Then came integrated circuits (the plane has been in service *that*
    long) and both sets of avionics fit in the same space as one circuit-
    board set of avionics.

    The F/A-18A *is* a fighter plane. The E/F Super Hornet, not so much.

  3. The original F-18 was a re-engineered YF-17, the aircraft that was proposed by Northrop in the fly off with the F-16. McDonnell-Douglas got it and made a few changes to produce the 18. As Lex put it, the F-16 was a worthy opponent of the F-18.

    The Super bug outweighs the bug by quite a bit, but will still perform fairly well as a fighter. I don't know if the "C" is still around or not, but I expect not. Lex was still flying a "C" when he was a squadron CO, and that was 8 years ago.

  4. I'll have to show this to my father-in-law. He flew F-4's in Vietnam and several years after. He was able to go up in an F-16 once (perks of being a General), which he loved. This kind of stuff makes him fairly giddy. Me? I know nothing other that to look and think "cool."

  5. Gerry,

    No, because F-15 pilots are smarter. They take off, refuel from a huuuuge tanker, ingress, kill people/break things, egress, refuel from a huuuuuge tanker again, fly back to a stable airfield (where they might have to deal with crosswinds), debrief, then have a beer and see which gals at the bar respond to the pick-up line "Hi! I'm a fighter pilot." Works even better if you can say it "Ciao. Sono un pilota di caccia."

    What's your reward for landing on a carrier? Well, no crosswind, don't have to flare the landing, then you're on a boat in the middle of nowhere with 5000 other guys and no beer.

  6. Saw the F/A-18F Super Hornet demo at an airshow this summer, a week after seeing the F-16C Viper demo (ironically, the Viper demo was at a Navy show, and the Super Hornet was at an Air Force show). For being a much bigger bird, the Rhino absolutely blew me away with how maneuverable it was.

    I believe it's the same demo as this video. 3:40 shows off a lot of control authority at low speed, with a demo move I don't believe I've ever seen the F-16 pull.

  7. All I can think of is, the F-15 is over 40 years old… I delivered a presentation on the F-15 to my ROTC class in 1977,

    I'm still used to when vastly improved models came out every five years or so.

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