The prospect of flying a highly detailed F/A-18 simulator has a lot of people really excited. Why are they excited? Because there is a lot that simulating the Hornet will bring to DCS World and flight simming in general.
A Hornet history
The Hornet got started out under the same lightweight fighter program that lead to the adoption of the F-16 in the USAF and multiple other air forces around the world. Northrup offered the YF-17 Cobra to the competition in what was an early precursor to the modern F-18 configuration.
While the YF-17 lost to the YF-16, it was then picked up by the US Navy looking for an aircraft that could replace the A-4 Skyhawk, A-7 Corsair II, and F-4 Phantom II.
Replacing so many aircraft meant that the F-18, an enlarged YF-17, would end up doing a lot of roles. It became one of the first true multi-role aircraft in the US inventory and it wouldn’t stop there, with the Hornet being adopted by the air forces of Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Spain, Switzerland, and others.
Multiple versions of the F/A-18 have emerged with the earlier A and B single-seat and two-seat trainer version being replaced by the C and D models. The D version is used by the U.S. Marine Corps being configured with a weapon system officer position in the rear and 60 D models have been upgraded to include special night attack features.
The specific version of the Hornet that DCS: F/A/-18C is modeling is unclear. The C version of the Hornet represented a major block update from the earlier single-seat A model. The C variant, regardless of the specific block version, has a lot of capabilities.
Here is as comprehensive list as I can make without getting bogged down into details:
- Fighter and attack roles with AIM-120 AMRAAM, AGM-65 Maverick, and AGM-84 Harpoon capabilities (in addition to the AIM-9 and AIM-7 as well as MK82/84 conventional bombs)
- Both air intercept and ground mapping radar
- Thermal navigation pod
- FLIR targeting pod (for night time operations)
- Full colour multi-function displays
- Later updates also have JDAM GPS guided munition capabilities
- Laser designation and lasing for other aircraft capabilities
To be clear, this is a highly capable and complex aircraft with a lot of features and options.
It’s a carrier aircraft
The other thing that DCS: F/A-18 is bringing to the table is that its a carrier fighter.
A fully operational Nimitz class carrier is expected to be a part of the DCS: F-18 module offering what may be the most detailed look at carrier ops in a modern sim. Eagle Dynamics has talked about functioning elevators, accurate internals, and a deep simulation of deck operations. As you’d expect, the F/A-18 will probably not be modeled to a bare minimum standard. It will be an authentic deep dive in the world of carrier operations.
Back to that multi-role thing
The F/A-18C can carry a lot of different munitions. From gravity bombs to AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles it has a lot of different things that it can carry and fire at the enemy. The infamous “spamram” is really only available on the Flaming Cliffs 3 F-15 right now and the F/A-18 does have the ability to carry a good number of them.
In some tests an F/-18C was fitted with twin AIM-9 missiles on the wingtip pylons and a further eight AMRAAMs on the inboard stations and dual mounted on pylons. This is an incredible (although heavy) configuration equaling the F-15s barrage of missiles.
More realistically, the F/A-18C can carry AIM-9, AIM-120 and a payload of Mavericks, Harpoons, or gravity bombs and rockets to take out targets. Rumor has it that the version we’re getting is one that also can carry GPS guided JDAM bombs so it should be fairly up to date. The challenge remains balancing a detailed sim while respecting that the aircraft is still very much classified in some of its capabilities.
Simply put, the F/A-18C has a better capability to strike targets AND fly as its own escort in the same mission than anything else currently in DCS. The series has strike aircraft, dedicated fighters, and aircraft like the MiG-29 and Mirage 2000 which can kind of do both but none on the same level as the Hornet.
The Hornet is an aircraft that isn’t the best at anything but it is very good at nearly everything.
E3 2017 reveal
In just a few days Eagle Dynamics will take the curtain down and show off their new module at the Thrustmaster booth. Excitement in the community for the Hornet is intense and I can’t wait to see the new module in action.
While you wait, check out some of these added resources.
YouTuber Woona put together a fantastic history on the F/A-18 that is worth watching!
You can also read some very detailed articles on Wikipedia about the F/A-18 and YF-17 as well: