EA-18G pilot explains why the F/A-18 Super Hornet wings when folded are not closer to the wing root

EA-18G pilot explains why the F/A-18 Super Hornet wings when folded are not closer to the wing root

By Dario Leone
Nov 28 2023
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The F/A-18 Super Hornet

The F/A-18E and F/A-18F are designed to meet current Navy fighter escort and interdiction mission requirements, to maintain F/A-18 fleet air defense and close air support roles, as well as an increasing range of missions, including Forward Air Controller (Airborne) and Aerial Tanking. F/A-18E/F enhancements include increased range and improved carrier suitability required for the F/A-18 to continue its key strike fighter role against the advanced threats of the 21st century.

The jet’s robust airframe was built with an open mission systems architecture, enabling ease of integration for new weapons and technology systems. Through incremental block upgrades, the Super Hornet has proven adaptable and capable of keeping pace with adversaries in today’s dynamic combat environment by striving to continually deliver increased lethality and mission flexibility.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet folding wings

As the photo in this post show, the Super Hornet, like most of the carrier based aircraft, features folding wings.

But why doesn’t the F/A-18 Super Hornet have wings that fold closer to the wing root? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to have the wing folds start at the second wing pylon instead of the third?

Adam Daymude, former US Navy EA-18G Growler pilot, explains on Quora;

‘Bunch of reasons but I’ll focus on the main problem. First off, why would you EVER design a wing that can do this:

EA-18G pilot explains why the F/A-18 Super Hornet wings when folded are not closer to the wing root
 An F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 is fully loaded with 10 GBU-32 1,000 pound bombs aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).

Folding wings are a nightmare

‘Second, let’s make sure everyone understands the question. The wing root is where the wing meets the fuselage. In this pic, you could say it’s above the engine intakes. It’s a little outdated to refer to it though because most airplanes are blended wing/fuselage now. But pedantics aside, I think the question is why are the folds where they are.

‘The engineering that needs to go into folding that wing is ree-donculous.

  • It adds complexity.
  • It adds weight.
  • It has extremely limited utility.
  • It limits what you can carry on the wings.
  • And hydraulics.
  • And electronics.
  • And on and on.
VFA-115 F/A-18E print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F/A-18E Super Hornet VFA-115 Eagles, NK200 / 165781 / 2006

‘Point is, those folding wings are a nightmare and no one in their right mind would use them unless it was absolutely essential. But we have them on F/A-18s, and a whole lot of other airplanes. Why?

Why the folding wings?

‘They’re all Naval airplanes! It’s through an effort to fit as many airplanes onboard an aircraft carrier as we can that we run into a problem. The fuselages line up really nicely but those dang wings stick out too far to get them close. So, let’s just fold them as close to the fuselage as possible to make them as small as we can. We can’t affect the length of the aircraft, but if we reduce our width by folding the wings, it’d be like arranging sticks. Easy cheesy. One problem. We also have to deal with height.

F/A-18F model
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

‘If you scroll back up to the picture, you’ll notice one thing (now that I point it out to you): the tops of the vertical stabilizers are at about the same height as the wings when they’re folded. That’s not coincidence. McDonnell Douglas was basically given a cube and were told “Build me an airplane that can fit in this box.” To pack the most punch in that box, they had to fold the wings. But not too much because of height. McD didn’t dream up this idea. Been around since WWII. Look at the folding that when on back then.’

Daymude concludes;

‘Wanna rock your world? Look at the S-3s vertical stab.

‘TLDR; The wings would’ve been too high for the carriers.’

EA-18G pilot explains why the F/A-18 Super Hornet wings when folded are not closer to the wing root

Photo credit: MC3 Matt Matlage / U.S. Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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