Military Aviation

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

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.

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.’

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

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

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.

View Comments

  • I was a Navy pilot for twenty years and never heard of an "Operations Specialist" lol. What is that? Unless it is a Rhino driver talking about engaging the Raptor or Fat Amy, lame AF article.

  • You were a naval aviator for 20 years. You did that pilot sh*t. The Naval Operations Specialist did all of that other sh*t to make you a successful Naval Aviator. 🤣

  • Huh. I was in the U.S. Navy for eight years and I saw OS' every day aboard CVN-74 the USS John C. Stennis. I also saw dozens of pilots. An OS' primary job is monitoring equipment that's vital to operations. I don't think you're a pilot at all because you would have dealt with this rating every day you were on the ship

  • Bunk22, that would depend when you was a pilot. The OS rating was created in 1972 with the breaking up of the Radarman rating creating the Electronic warfare Tech and the Operations Specialist. OS' work in Combat Information Centers and are responsible for the tactical and operational data for the ship or fleet depending on the type of command they are assigned to.

    If you've been a pilot since 1972, then I highly suspect you were ever a US Navy Pilot, as OSs work extremely close carrier airwing and command operations

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