US Navy Operations Specialist tells why an F/A-18 fighting against an F-22/F-35 is like a shooter hunting a sniper wearing a ghillie suit

US Navy Operations Specialist tells why an F/A-18 fighting against an F-22/F-35 is like a shooter hunting a sniper wearing a ghillie suit

By Dario Leone
May 11 2024
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The Super Hornet

The Super Hornet is the second major model upgrade since the inception of the F/A-18 aircraft program highly capable across the full mission spectrum: air superiority, fighter escort, reconnaissance, aerial refueling, close air support, air defense suppression and day/night precision strike. The single-seat F/A-18E and the two-seat F/A-18F are high performance, twin-engine, mid-wing, and multi-mission tactical aircraft designed to replace the F/A-18C (single-seat) and F/A-18D (two-seat) aircraft as they reach the end of their service lives and retire.

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, as they have proven capability to replace the S-3 as an aerial tanker. 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 latest Block III upgrade extends the platform’s service life and range, and incorporates an advanced cockpit system, reduced radar cross section and an advanced networking infrastructure.

US Navy Operations Specialist tells why an F/A-18 fighting against an F-22/F-35 is like a shooter hunting a sniper wearing a ghillie suit

F/A-18 Vs F-22/F-35

Given its awesome capabilities, is the F/A-18 Super Hornet evolved to the point it can take on a fifth gen fighter like the F-22 or F-35 in one-on-one?

‘No, it is not, and the same goes for any other 4th gen fighter,’ Eric Wicklund, former US Navy US Navy Operations Specialist, explains on Quora.

‘I could even put a more advanced radar on the F-18 than one found on the F-22 or F-35, and it still wouldn’t help. The improved radar could find a stealth plane at a “longer range” than before, but because you’re trying to find a stealth aircraft, it will still find YOU before you find IT.

‘Imagine you’re hunting me and I’m hunting you in the middle of the night. We both have thermal sights and good optics. But…you’ve got the latest and greatest “pistol” ever made. I have a 20-year-old sniper rifle.

‘Seems like you’ve got the advantage, right?

This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-22A Raptor 192nd Fighter Wing, 149th Fighter Squadron, FF/04-4082 – Langley AFB, VA – 2014

‘Problem is, I’ve got a ghillie suit with thermal management systems. I create no heat signature…but you do…

Like hunting a sniper wearing a ghillie suit

‘Even in the day, you’d struggle to find me. At night, my thermal management system makes it still hard to find me. And this is the crux of the problem. I can easily see you, but you’d be lucky to ever see me at all. It doesn’t matter that your gun is more “evolved” or technologically sophisticated than mine. If you can’t find me, you can’t shoot me. But I can find you any time.’

Wicklund concludes;

‘This is why even the most advanced 4th gen fighters will always struggle against a stealth fighter. You can’t shoot what you can’t see. And even though you eventually can locate a stealth fighter on radar, that will always be too late, because it can find, and shoot, the 4th gen before it can return the favor.’

The US Navy F/A-18 that shot down a crewless US Navy E-2C to prevent it from crashing in a populated area
This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy Photo by Christopher Hurst and 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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