Skip to comments.Battle of the SuperFighters: F-14D Tomcat v. F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Posted on 04/19/2002 8:10:01 AM PDT by LSUfan
click here to read article
Uh huh. Nope.
F18 started out as a compromise and got worse, I think the Navy was hoping for F16 like capability but the twin engine requirement put the nail in that coffin.
Maybe JSF will fix everything! In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for the Super Hornet drivers....although on balance I think more F14's make the news for aviation mishaps.
I'm no fan of the F18. If I remember correctly, when McD lost the fighter contest to the F16, McD put carrier goodies on their loser and seduced the Navy into thinking the F18 was the short term answer to all things, the mismanaged doomed A12 being the long term answer.
Anyone out there corroborate this? Or tell me what really happened?
I really hope they do start up F-14 production again; I thought it was a mistake to stop making them in the first place.
A Light Weight Fighter (LWF) program came into being under Packard's watch. A Request For Proposals (RFP) was issued to the industry on January 16, 1971. The RFP called for a high thrust-to-weight ratio, a gross weight of less than 20,000 pounds, and high maneuverability. No attempt was to be made to equal the performance of the MiG-25 Foxbat, the emphasis being on what was thought to be the most-likely conditions of future air combat--battles at altitudes of 30,000-40,000 feet and speeds of Mach 0.6 to Mach 1.6. Emphasis was to be on turn rate, acceleration, and range rather than on high speed. A small size was stressed, since the small size of MiG-17 and MiG-21 had made them difficult to detect visually during combat over North Vietnam. The RFP specified three main objectives. The aircraft should fully explore the advantages of emerging technologies, reduce the risk and uncertainties involved in full-scale development and production, and provide a variety of technological options to meet future military hardware needs.
Northrop believed that it had the basis for an entry in the LWF contest in its P-530 Cobra project, which had so far failed to attract any customers. Its entry was given the company designation of P-600. Externally, the P-600 was almost identical to the 1971 form of the P-530 Cobra. However, the P-530 had always been envisaged as a multi-role aircraft with a significant air-to-ground capability, whereas the P-600 was to be purely an air-to-air demonstrator with no armament except a gun and a Sidewinder missile at each wingtip.
The P-600 was to be powered by a pair of General Electric YJ101-GE-100 turbofans rated at 15,000 lb.s.t. each with afterburning. The J101 was a development of the GE15 engine that had been proposed for the P-530. The two engines were mounted close together to minimize the asymmetric effects in the event of an engine loss. The maximum takeoff weight of the P-600 was initially only 21,000 pounds, but it soon grew to 23,000 pounds. The landing gear was much simpler than that of the P-530, saving considerable weight. A much higher proportion of the structure was of graphite fibre, including the LERX, ailerons, flaps, airbrake engine doors, fin leading and trailing edges, rudders, and many access doors.
An inflight refuelling receptacle was installed above the nose. The M61 cannon was relocated to the upper part of the nose instead of underneath.
Full fly-by-wire controls were adopted, Northrop management finally concluding that these systems were now sufficiently reliable to warrant their incorporation. The tail circuits were quadruply redundant, but the ailerons were simplex because the aircraft could always be controlled in roll by the tailplanes.
The cockpit of the P-600 was generally identical to that of the P-530. An inertial navigation system (Litton LN-33) was planned, but Northrop at USAF request did not plan for a large and expensive multi-mode radar and the designers retained a constricted nose with a pointed conical form. However, in April of 1974 Northrop contracted with Rockwell for a compact radar with a phased-array antenna that could fit inside the narrow nose.
Four other manufacturers submitted proposals--Boeing, General Dynamics, Ling-Temco-Vought, and Lockheed. In March of 1972, the Air Staff concluded that the Boeing Model 908-909 was the first choice, with the General Dynamics Model 401 and the Northrop Model P-600 as close seconds. The Vought V-1100 and Lockheed CL-1200 Lancer had been eliminated.
The Source Selection Authority, after further work, rated the General Dynamics and Northrop proposals ahead of the Boeing submission. The General Dynamics Model 401-16B and the Northrop P-600 were chosen for further development on April 13, 1972, and contracts for two YF-16s (72-1567/1568) and two YF-17s (72-1569/1570) were awarded. Rather than the "X" (experimental) prefix being used, the "Y" (development) prefix was used in order to indicate that a mixture of off-the-shelf and experimental technologies were being used. The YF-16 was to be powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F100 turbofan, whereas the YF-17 was to be powered by a pair of General Electric YJ101-GE-100 engines. The "cost plus fixed fee" contracts covered the design, construction, and testing of two prototypes, and a year of flight testing. At the time, the Air Force was still very much committed to the F-15 fighter, and visualized the LWF program as more of a technology-demonstration project rather than a serious effort for a production aircraft. At the same time, contracts were given to Pratt & Whitney for a version of the F100 turbofan specially adapted for single-engined aircraft and to General Electric for the new and smaller YJ101 engine.
The first YF-17A (72-1569) was rolled out at Hawthorne, California on April 4, 1974, and was trucked to Edwards AFB. The first YF-17A took off on its first flight on June 9, 1974 from Edwards AFB, with test pilot Hank Chouteau at the controls. On June 11, the YF-17 became the first American fighter to exceed the speed of sound in level flight without the use of an afterburner. The second YF-17A flew for the first time on August 21, 1974. The two prototypes carried out a series of 288 test flights totalling 345 hours.
The flyoff began as soon as flight testing started. There was an attempt to get as many pilots as possible to fly both the YF-16 and YF-17. The Lightweight Fighter prototypes never flew against each other, but they did fly against all current USAF fighters as well as against MiG-17s and MiG-21s that had been "acquired" by the USAF and operated at the Nellis AFB complex.
In the meantime, the governments of Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway had begun to consider possible replacements for the Lockheed F-104G Starfighter. They formed the Multinational Fighter Program Group to choose the successor, and agreed that all four countries would purchase the same aircraft. The prime candidates were the Northrop YF-17, the Dassault Mirage F.1, the SAAB JA37 Viggen, and the General Dynamics YF-16. The winner of the ACF contest in the USA would probably be the favored candidate, but the MFPG wanted to see if the USAF was going to buy the plane for itself before they made any commitment to an American candidate.
Within the Air Force staff, there was a strong institutional bias against the LWF, since they perceived it to be a threat to the F-15 program. However, the prospect of a big European order for the LWF whetted the appetite of certain Air Force brass, who now regarded the project as something more than just a technology demonstration program. To try and convince the F-15 lobby that the LWF program was not a threat to them, the LWF program was renamed Air Combat Fighter (ACF) by the Defense Department.
In September of 1974, Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger announced that that he was considering production of the winner of the LWF contest to satisfy USAF, Navy, and export requirements. Up to that time, the LWF/ACF program had been largely an academic exercise for the USAF, but the possibility of a large European order led the USAF to change its mind and envisage large-scale service for the aircraft. However, the design emphasis would be changed to that of a multi-role aircraft rather than simply an air-superiority fighter. It was agreed that the ACF would complement rather than supplement the F-15 Eagle in USAF service, easing somewhat Air Force fears that it would somehow sidetrack their Eagle program. The production form of the LWF (by now known strictly as the ACF in Defense Department press releases) would have a larger radar antenna, giving the aircraft some BVR capability. On September 11, 1974, the USAF announced plans to buy 650 ACFs, with the possibility that this could be increased to 1400 or more. This move was made to assure the potential NATO customers that the USAF would stand firmly behind the new fighter.
Although the Northrop contender demonstrated remarkable handling qualities and was actually superior in certain areas, on January 13, 1975, Air Force Secretary John McLucas announced that the YF-16 had been selected as the winner of the ACF contest. The YF-16 was a little faster than the YF-17, and its F100 powerplant was a proven engine that was in use in other warplanes already in service. The J101 engine was a new, relatively untried powerplant which would require enormous investment in tooling, spare parts, and documentation. In addition, the J101 was considered somewhat underpowered and was not a true turbofan like the YF-16's F100, and suffered from a lower specific range. In addition, the YF-16 had a better specific range than the YF-17 and was considerably less expensive.
That might have been the end of the line for the Northrop design, were it not for the US Navy's desire for a new fighter. In August of 1974, the US Navy's own VFAX program had been cancelled by Congress in favor of NACF, which instructed the Navy to choose its fighter from between the two ACF rivals. Northrop decided to team up with McDonnell Douglas to promote a version of its YF-17 as an entry in this contest. This design was eventually to emerge as the F/A-18 Hornet, which was ordered by the Navy on May 2, 1975. The second YF-17 was earmarked for development work as the "F-18 prototype" (even though the true F/A-18 did not fly until November of 1978).
I was "read in" on the A-12 program in the early 90s. The aircraft was pushing the limits of both aerodynamic and stealth envelopes, would not carry the payload of the A-6, had less range and was a maintenance nightmare waiting to happen.
Critics of the A-6 cited survivability as its leading shortcoming. Additionally, there was a 2500 "hit" arrested landing limitation on the tailhook box that would have necessitated re-manufacturing the empennage. John Lehman even had a proposal for an A-6F on his agenda as SECNAV, but cost and the stealth mafia effectively killed any chance of the A-6 continuing service.
Admit my community bias is showing, but I too agree that the F/A-18 is not a good replacement for either the F-14 or the A-6, in either of its incarnations.
Word has it that more than a few F-15 jocks at Langley AFB learned about the new Tomcat engines the HARD way.
IMHO, they ought never to have stopped building A-6s.
Red headed Stepchild of the US Navy and runt sibling to the F-16 [and now F/A-14 Tomcat].
Even when I was a kid...I didnt understand why the navy was buying them.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.