The Hornet Jumps


Boeing has demonstrated yet another capability of the ever-young F/A-18 Super Hornet by proving it can “operate from a ‘ski jump’ ramp, demonstrating the aircraft’s suitability for India’s aircraft carriers,” according to the company. India uses something called STOBAR, for Short Takeoff But Arrested Recovery, that uses a ramp-assisted takeoff relying only on the aircraft’s thrust and benefiting from the ship’s forward motion, combined with more conventional arresting methods for landing. It’s said that STOBAR carriers are cheaper to build than those with powered catapults. 

“The first successful and safe launch of the F/A-18 Super Hornet from a ski jump begins the validation process to operate effectively from Indian Navy aircraft carriers,” said Ankur Kanaglekar, India Fighter Sales lead for Boeing. “The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet will not only provide superior war fighting capability to the Indian Navy but also create opportunities for cooperation in naval aviation between the United States and India.”

“This milestone further positions the Block III Super Hornet as a versatile next-generation frontline fighter for decades to come,” said Thom Breckenridge, vice president of International Sales for Strike, Surveillance and Mobility with Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “With its proven capabilities, affordable acquisition price, known low documented life-cycle costs and guaranteed delivery schedule, the Block III Super Hornet is ideally suited to meet fighter aircraft requirements of customers in India, North America and Europe.”

The demonstration is part of Boeing’s sales pitch to the Indian navy, which has not chosen which fighter to purchase. It will be looking to add to its fleet of MiG-29K fighters and is considering both the F/A-18 and the Dassault Rafale. Also part of the pitch: “Boeing has strengthened its supply chain with 225 partners in India and a joint venture to manufacture fuselages for Apache helicopters. Annual sourcing from India stands at $1 billion. Boeing currently employs 3,000 people in India, and more than 7,000 people work with its supply chain partners.”

Marc Cook
KITPLANES Editor in Chief Marc Cook has been in aviation journalism for more than 30 years. He is a 4000-hour instrument-rated, multi-engine pilot with experience in nearly 150 types. He’s completed two kit aircraft, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Sportsman 2+2, and currently flies a 2002 GlaStar.

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  1. “India uses something called STOBAR, for Short Takeoff But Arrested Recovery, that uses a ramp-assisted but unpowered takeoffs with more conventional arresting methods for landing.”

    An unpowered takeoff? That I wish to see.

    • Yes, that amused me also. Catapult-less may be a better way of putting it. Clearly both the aircraft and the carrier itself will be powered and pushing hard throughout.

  2. Argentina was unable to launch their carrier fighters after spotting the British fleet during the Falklands War because the wind was calm, they were using a skijump and their planes were too heavy to launch in that scenario.

    You could argue that partially cost them the war. After the Belgrano was sunk, they sailed their carrier back to dock to preserve it, in fear of the British nuclear subs.

    The additional air power mistake was that although Argentina had about 122 fighters vs. around 42 British Harriers, the Argentina Air Force was not integrated well with the Army/Navy, and did not have forward air bases near the Falklands. So those fighters were doing longer trips resulting in less combat, losing the home field advantage.

    • Ummmmm. No – not correct about ski jumps.

      The ARA Veinticinco de Mayo (Argentinian Carrier and ex-Royal Navy HMS Venerable) did NOT have a “Ski-Jump”. The British carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible DID have ski jumps. The ski-jump was developed by Lt. Cdr. D.R. Taylor in 1973 based on a temporary arrangement tried on HMS Furious during WWII to get overloaded Fairy Barracudas into the air. The principle is to give the aircraft some extra altitude over MSL in return for a small loss of airspeed as it hits the ski jump. The additional altitude translates to more time to accelerate to flying speed. For the Royal Navy it allowed their Harriers to carry greater war loads and launch in LESS wind during the Falklands conflict.

      You are correct that the Argentinians kept their carrier in port – rather than risk losing it after the HMS Conqueror sank the ARA General Belgrano. And with good reason. Post war it has been revealed another UK submarine – HMS Splendid – was at least training the carrier escorts (some have it was trailing the actual carrier) just waiting for it to make a move into a declared exclusion zone.

  3. Rather have multiple ski-jump, oil-fueled carriers with Super Hornets than one nuke carrier with a handful of cranky F-35s aboard—for the same money. “Quantity has a quality all its own.”
    We’re putting too few eggs in too few baskets with the nuclear carriers.