F-18E Superhornet

MiGMan’s Combat Diary

1999 | Beta version | Retail version

This plane looks hot and I just want to get airborne!
Forget studying the manual, forget flight planning, forget pre-flight... how hard could it be?
What could go wrong?
OK, I'm on the runway and playing with the function keys because as I said, I don't want to muck about reading the manual first! I have that "Xmas morning" vibe!
Mmmm, F1 is the fully detailed cockpit view. The mouse scrolls the view... a bit too slowly I thought until I pressed F2. Ah... that's better, a less detailed cockpit with a wider field of view and very fast scrolling!
Now, engine start... what happens if I press the APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) key?
It starts, yay!
See? Easy!
Now left engine, spooling up nicely, then right engine, with verbal confirmation from the pilot. These clickable cockpits are great.
NOTE: I have since learned that you should start the right engine first,
In the air, gear and flaps up and the Hornet is purring away nicely. It cruises at a higher speed than the F/A-18's of old, which is to be expected I guess. Now I must remember that I only loaded 1/2 fuel, intending to do a couple of circuits and then land.

Heading, Altitude and Speed can be read very quickly from the HUD.

The land around here looks flat.. very flat.. I hope it's not all like that... no.... off there, yonder... I espy some rolling terrain. One of the absolute delights in DI's Tornado was to swoop at low level up hill and down dale, let's see if that exhilarating sense of speed is recaptured in F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Whew! 5 minutes later I was having a ball!
A smooth and silky ride with a good sensation of speed... and this on only a Pentium 233 with a Creative 3D Blaster Banshee graphics card.
My faith is restored... it is stil possible to code a good looking sim which will actually run smoothly on an AVERAGE gaming PC !
Note - in 1999-2000 an average gaming PC ran at less than 1 GIGAHERZ CPU clock speed.

Righto, out of the weeds, plug in full burner and uuuuup she goes!
Whooopeee!
I'm passing 36,000 feet and I suddenly remember two things:
I didn't put much fuel in
I'm totally lost!
This is accompanied by a clammy, queasy feeling in my gut.
Level off and throttle back.
Hmmm.
5 minutes of head down work in the cockpit convinces me that I know very little about the map display.
However, based on a semi-educated guess I decide to steer for what I hope is a TACAN symbol on the map. I hadn't pushed too many buttons and so hoped that it was tuned to the beacon at the airport I took off from.
About this time, just as I'm getting very nervous and looking for the ejection handle, the voice warning system goes off "BINGO, BINGO".
OK OK, I get the message, and a press of the Master Caution Lamp shuts the computer up. Yikes, that's 3,500 lbs of fuel left. There is an adjustable bingo setting on the fuel flow indicator panel, I notice belatedly.
I let down to about 3,000 feet and peer out of the virtual cockpit... there it is! The airbase! Or at least, an airbase!
Landing was faaaairly uneventful, although according to the merciless debrief I had touched down way too hard.

As you can see by the debrief map, I had ponced around the planned route a bit then headed North West and followed a road up the valley before climbing to the South East. Now that's a lesson in itself. If I had bothered to notice the general compass headings of my escapades, it would have been very simple to head back east and find the airbase visually.

Carrier Ops

Having now mastered the bird, it seemed prudent to commence carrier ops.

The carrier deck in F/A-18 Super Hornet was by far the most detailed seen to date.
I started at the back of the crowded deck and watched in awe as Hornets taxied and took off under the direction of deck handlers. These little guys direct you verbally and with hand signals, then sprint out of the way. Mine wasn't quick enough (or I was too slow) and he was ... arrrr... sucked into the left engine.... most embarassing.


The Jet Blast Deflectors are necessary to stop crew being toasted then blown overboard by the aircraft exhaust. Yes, it's a hazardous place the ol' carrier deck!

Pilot error/s

I've lost track of the new and exciting ways I found to auger in:

The flight model gives you the impression of handling a nimble and heavy airframe. The computers do their best to fly the plane where you point it, but can't rescue you from gross errors of judgement like my low loops!
From a hard-core point of view I like this... it forces you to correct sloppy habits and get into the checklist mentality.. getting into a "landing state of mind"" when landing... not dwelling on the fantastic dogfight you just had / didn't have.

This indeed is the essence of creating an immersive sim!

One small gripe, the constant narration from the pilot will be much appreciated by beginners, but the option of toggling it off would be nice. ( A patch was released to enable just that!)
You can see by the contrails that I'm descending at a terrific rate. This often turned out to be a fatal manouever for me.
Your wingmen seem pretty competent at their jobs, but you never see them once they have taken off!
After a couple of weeks I tried to rein them in and alter the default flight plans. It was still damn hard to get a tally on them... maybe this is realistic? After all the aircraft and ground objects are all rather small at a mile and the Super Hornet likes to cruise along at 550 knots, so your chance of a close encounter with another Hornet is pretty low. And while we're there... how about that wingman communication menu!
Please DI, implement a drop down wingman command menu activated by the ~ key with numbers for the sub-menus and commands.
Radar operation is standard Hornet fare, and will be familiar to anyone who flew Graphic Simulations Corporation's F/A-18 Korea.
Getting visual contact is not too hard... just fly towards the radar designator on the HUD. The enemy pilots fly like demons most of the time, pulling maximum G break turns which require you to really think about your airspeed and chip away at the turns to get a firing solution.
This plane is no lawn dart!
Forget about the "put enemy at the top of your HUD and PULL" tactics which may take down most foes if you're in an F-16. This baby has the muscle but you need to supply the brains.
Missile locks are no guarantee of a hit and you quickly learn to wait for the "SHOOT" cue to flash. Luckily the enemy missiles suffer the same limitations and rarely was I hit by an AAM or SAM. Mind you I used copious quanties of chaff, flares, break turns and flying L O W to increase my chances.
I would like to have seen more random enemy behaviour, like seen in MiG Alley, where enemy pilots do the odd stupid thing, or bail out from sheer panic. Maybe they did and I just didn't get to see the fun?

I was too busy doing my own stupid things!
An Su-30 Bites the dust

Low Altitude excitement

Speaking of flying low...this is an area where Super Hornet excels. The texture mapped ground - using "micro textures" - whizzes by at a breathtaking rate once get down to a few hundred feet. It is perfectly possible to fly at 50 or 100 feet and once the tracers start whizzing by I tended to hunker down in my seat and fly under the arcs of death.
Of course I occasionally MET an arc of death which resulted in fires, MFD loss.. and occasionally BBABOOOM!
Which leads me to lament the lack of a nice - arcade style - ejection sequence. You know, the kind you like to show to friends and relatives. A nice ejection sequence also gives you the opportunity to swing in your chute and check out the surrounding mayhem. Never mind - a small gripe.

Mayhem

T-72 tank in the thick of it
Mayhem is an area that Super Hornet excels in. Get a cup of your favourite brew, pull up a chair and check out the amazing ground action. Tank battles with units firing as they retreat or advance, artillery pieces doing their thing, truly a movie-within-a-sim.
Most of my flying was done during daylight hours, which meant NOT flying about 80 % of the preset missions. What is this guys... NightFighter?!!!
I found it difficult enough to avoid the ground and spot the bogies in daylight hours!
I DID try the Night - Vision - Goggles, but I didn't buy a nice computer and graphics card to fly around in a world of green, and I'm sure many people will feel the same.
Realistic maybe but...
I'm waiting with bated breath for the mission editor promised for release sometime in 2000. I'd like to create some easier missions... and lot's more daylight missions!
So in conclusion, an immersive and hard core sim which works for the most part very well and demands your utmost attention.
To those sim fans who've been waiting for the next Tornado (1993), I say don't wait, get Super Hornet now and fly it low and fast like a Tornado !

At night and in a world of hurt!