Stephen

Aircraft Review : F/A 18-F "Rhino" Super Hornet by Colimata

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Aircraft Review : F/A 18-F "Rhino" Super Hornet by Colimata

 

The lasting mainstay today of the "Multi-role" fighter aircraft role today is the F/A 18 Hornet that is a fourth generation design that is a more versatile platform than the out and out fifth generational F-22 Raptor.

The Super Hornet is a development of the original F/A 18 aircraft 1970's design but in reality is a very different aircraft even if the two designs do look the same. The Super Hornet's unique wing and tail configuration can be traced back to an internal Northrop project P-530, that was conceived in 1965; this had started as a substantial rework of the lightweight F-5E with a larger wing, twin tail fins and a distinctive leading edge root extension (LERX). The Super Hornet carries 33% more internal fuel, increasing mission range by 41% and endurance by 50% over the "Legacy" Hornet. The F/A 18 Super Hornet was also a compromise in replacing the (limited range) Grumman F-14 Tomcat and so the aircraft had major modifications for Naval deployment included in its earliest design stages. It is known as a 4.5 generational aircraft because of its unique capabilities and first flew on 29 November 1995 and was approved in February 2000 for naval operations.

 

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Colimata F/A 18-F

Shortly after the completion of their excellent MiG-29 Fulcrum (review) then Colimata announced that their next project was the F/A 18-F Super Hornet (Rhino) for X-Plane. The design was a major project to undertake as the aircraft is in its many disguises a very complex military machine. To translate that complexity to X-Plane would take an enormous amount of skill and talent, but if anyone can recreate a classic multi-role fighter then Colimata would be your best choice.

 

As with every generational fighter aircraft then they usually have very distinctive features that denotes the era and the design parameters of their roles. The F/A 18 is a textbook account of an aircraft in those roles in the late 20th century, and an iconic design this aircraft is.

This design comes to X-Plane in two versions. 

 

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There is the "Plain" or "Armed" versions or with the aircraft fully loaded or free of weaponry. In most areas here we will cover the armed version as it has the more functionality of using the weapons than the empty slots of the plain version.

 

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There is no mistaking the outline of the F/A 18 and you can tell the difference between the original Hornet and the Super Hornet in the engine intake ramps are oval intakes were as the Super has rectangular ramps. Built around the rear located twin General Electric F414-GE-400 turbofans, the distinctive twin tails and very fine chord wings are built for several reasons in sheer supersonic speed and manoeuvrability.

This aircraft looks gorgeous and is very well developed. The "Super" Hornet F versions are all two-man and the huge canopy opens to uncover the cockpit, the E versions are all single seater aircraft.

Close aircraft detailing is good, but there is not the high 3d (lines and highlights) detailing here you expect with today's X-Plane designs, so up very close it can be a little plain in the fuselage work, but it is also very well modeled as a compensation and textures are 4K High-Definition.

 

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The undercarriage is really well designed with great trailing linkages and wheel supports, the complex wheel fold and doors animations is excellent as well.

 

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Flaps are two stage with leading edge spoilers, fully animated and very powerful in creating lift. The wings on the aircraft are also a big part of the airbraking system.

 

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Select one notch of the airbrake (two available) and many of the aircraft's surfaces move to counteract the slipstream. rear rudders go outwards, rear tail-planes go down, outboard wing ailerons go up and two small airbrakes pop up over the engine intakes, and yes all these effects are impressive. So the F/A 18 is not a nervy aircraft per se, but all these large moving surfaces do require a a little thought when being used, and certainly at slow speeds as they can reduce your speed very quickly and catch you unawares and stall the aircraft if not used in their correct context.

 

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There is a built-in tail-hook for carrier landings and you can fold the outer-wings for carrier parking, but make sure you dispose of the two outer Sidewinder missiles as they will hang in mid-air with the wings in the folded position.

 

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Two pilots and I noticed the rear officer was animated by moving his head around. It was really all he could do as his panel was blank and non-active. Both pilots are very well done with realistic flying suits.

 

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Most reasons to buy these sort of military aircraft are the panels and instruments. No doubt this F/A18 is very well equipped and designed, but a lot of the switchgear does not work.

 

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Power up the aircraft and the main panel is very impressive. These machines are complex in a simplistic way, they look very complex but are also built for very quick reactions and instant information once learned and used. The main joystick is removable, as is using the ejection seat handle which is active and will take you out of the aircraft in a whish.

 

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Left and right console panels are comprehensive in detail, but like I mentioned not many switches work.

 

Left console is fuel, APU, generator left, throttle lever (can be hidden) and trims. Upper left console is Landing lights, Brake Pressure, Landing gear (up/down), flaps (Up-Half-Full) and park brake.

Right side is panel lighting, generator right, power (on/off), bleed, Eject handle, tailhook deploy, wingfold and hydraulic pressure gauge. 

 

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There are four main instrument displays and one lower left smaller fuel display. Lower right are your three backup Airspeed, Altitude and Rate-of-Climb dials, with sited above a floating ball artificial horizon and radar screen.

 

The main central upper display is the UFCD - Up Front Control Display. This unit's display does not change stations but only in menu selections and has an input button matrix layout. The other three display screens are all interchangeable to suit your current situation, either in navigation or weapon attack modes.

 

The "Menu" selection button is central bottom (The central lower display "Menu" button is behind the joystick which gets in the way) and you have the surround key selections of (anti-clockwise) ADI - Altitude Direction Indicator, FUEL - Fuel Indicators, ENG - Engine Parameters,  RADAR, WPN - Weapons, HSI-C - Horizontal Situation Indicator/Circle Format and FDATA - Flight Situation Data.

 

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So it is a pretty comprehensive system and quite easy to use once you are familiar with it. Like I mentioned I set it up in two ways.

In Nav mode I have the ADI on the left and GSI-C on the right and FUEL in the lower display. Moving into attack mode I put the RADAR on the left and WPN (Weapons) set out on the right and the ADI in the lower display, and those sets of combinations give you best coverage for both situations.

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Flying The F/A18-F Super Hornet

 

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Flaps to half, hold the brakes a little and push on the power from those two huge GE-400 turbofans and surprisingly when you do release the brakes the aircraft doesn't expectedly catapult you into space. Speed builds gradually but the push then becomes a shove and you will quickly be at 180knt at rotate speed, gear up and you climb away. Be careful at the point you clean up the flaps as the aircraft will dive through loss of lift so it is always a nice idea to put a little more power on as you do. Most will go to full throttle on the line and get those afterburners singing their tune, but that is the wrong thing to do as you are burning up a lot of precious fuel resources for a bit of an instant thrill.

 

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If you do need to climb or gain speed quickly then use the burners which are really well created here, but again use very sparingly.

 

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In the air you don't feel the speed, as the speed and altitude numbers on your panel move and quickly like you are in some sort of time machine, so you have to aware of not over using these resources at your disposal, because they come at a huge cost...  fuel. And this thing uses fuel like a Saturn 5 first stage... it absolutely gulps it down and if you want to fly for any sort of range then you have to be very efficient in your use of the aircraft and be light on the throttle.

 

Flying the F/A 18-F manually is surprisingly nice, the aircraft is very light to the touch and very trimmed in flight, so only a few light adjustments are required to keep the aircraft tight and level. This make even medium flying distances not tiring or a strain on your awareness.

 

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UFCD - Up Front Control Display

The dominant display is the UFCD - Up Front Control Display...  It is really the glareshield panel of an airliner were you set your Com 1 & 2 channels, VOR 1 & 2 frequencies, AP - Autopilot, Baro and Radar height.

 

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The square filled box in the corner of the selection is to show which item(s) are active. The four selections are Com 1, Com 2, AP and Set.

First we will set a Com 1 Frequency, so you select COM 1 which is the upper left square.

 

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You select with your mouse directly on to the screen, selections colour in (Green) the selected item. so you select the COM channel you want to change. Then number in the Frequency in the upper box and press ENT (Enter) to insert the freq into the selected box. To insert or make the freq active then press SET and it will change in the upper box. When done you press EXIT to go back to the main menu.

 

All is well and good but you will find entering the numbers (in this case the freq) a bit hit and miss until you get used to it. Input is 1st 2nd 3rd . 4th 5th 6th numbers but that decimal can be hard to set as it moves around with all the different types of inputs you can do. It certainly needs a bit of practise to get used to the entering system.

The AP - Autopilot is a handy tool for flying to and from your station and hanging around on station.

 

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Select AP from the main menu and again the small green squares denotes which AP areas are active. To change an area and in this case your heading then you first select "Value Set Mode" and then the item you want to change.

 

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Number in the new heading and press ENT to activate and unpress "Value Set Mode" to return to the main AP, yopu can activate or disengage any of the items in Heading, Speed or Altitude. It is a lot of palaver to just change your heading every time and the set altitude can also be a bit frustrating.

Even if you activate the altitude say 200ft in a + or - number then the aircraft will hunt the required set altitude, this means your going for a ride of minus negative pitch to a bounding upwards positive pitch that will eventually settle on the correct altitude. It takes ages to settle down, so you try to restrict the climb and fall waves with the stick and it does work...  eventually. Try to get you manual altitude as close to the set altitude to restrict waves in the first place but in this very fast moving jet that is easier said than done, no matter how light you are with the stick.

 

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The SET menu selection has two items in your BARO and Radar height settings and the final info input has the aircraft's model version noted.

 

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Weapons

The F/A 18-F is seriously well stocked in damaging things, either in air-to-air or air-to-ground roles you can do a lot of harm to the bad people.

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Armaments include 2 x AIM-9L Sidewinders infrared guided missles, 4 x AIM-120 Advanced medium range air to air missles AMRAAM, 2 x Mk 83 free-fall bombs and a forward mounted internal 20mm M61A2 lightweight Gatling gun. There are three drop tanks for extended range.

Armament selections are dived into two groups in AA (air-to-air) or AG (air-to-ground) and you can rotate around the items on upper selection keys on the active display until you select the item you require. If you use one then the system will rotate directly to the opposite type for rapid secondary firing.

The ARM switch is to your left and there is two modes in SAFE and ARM which is shown in the centre of the display. The forward gun has the noted amount of rounds remaining and changes as you fire at the target.  30 Chaff and Flares are also available and the remaining numbers are noted. All weapons can be rearmed or cleared on the standard X-Plane/Weight & Balances & Fuel/Ordnance menu pages.

 

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A note that the set X-Plane firing key is not as you would expect with the "Fire Guns!" setting but it is the "Fire all armed Selections" key selection to which here I set on my joystick fire button. Once the weapon of choice is selected then you can fire away with abandon, and X-Plane does the rest of the animations of smoke and rapidly disappearing deadly killer of all the bad guys very well.

 

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The RADAR display will give you your target in green with current differences in height and speed from your own, and when targeted (locked on) the display will turn red...  all you have to do then is fire the kill button. I chased the default X-Plane F4 Phantom all over the area and finally got my kill, but a few times I either ran out of fuel or just gave up the chase as it spread away from me at over 545Knts...

The F/A18 can also be used on the X-Plane Carrier "USS Nimitz".

 

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It is a hell of a ride to thrown over the end of the carrier in the slingshot firing. Landing however is another thing altogether, it is hard. You do have the excellent HUD (Head-Up-Display) that gives you a lot of visual information and the "Line Ball" red and green arrows to help guide you into a safe landing. But the F/A18-F is quite a handful at slow speeds and very easy to stall, as those thin wings are made for speed and not slow carrier landings. So getting the hook on the deck is always a major achievement and there a few a few tips in the manual on how to fly at the impossible slow speeds required...  Just make sure you have a few days available and a lot of patience to get the job done.

There is no doubt this is a nice aircraft.

 

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I took the aircraft up in the late evening in USAAF Flight-test colours and it looked magnificent in the low light, slight disappointment though in that I noticed the internal engine fans were static?, I expected the developers expected you couldn't see them so deep inside the inlet tunnels, but you can and it shows. I don't know if the supersonic ramps work either as I never went that far, I suspect they don't.

 

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Performance: Maximum speed: Mach 1.8 (1,190 mph, 1,915 km/h) at 40,000 ft (12,190 m), Range: 1,275 nmi (2,346 km) clean plus two AIM-9s, Combat radius: 390 nmi (449 mi, 722 km) for interdiction mission, Ferry range: 1,800 nmi (2,070 mi, 3,330 km), Service ceiling: 50,000+ ft (15,000+ m), Rate of climb: 44,882 ft/min (228 m/s), Wing loading: 94.0 lb/ft² (459 kg/m²), Thrust/weight: 0.93, Design load factor: 7.6 g

 

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Lighting

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Internal lighting is excellent...  in the front. There is a comforting green glow that can be adjusted to your liking. You can on the main displays also adjust the contrast that turns the units white and that is very nice to the eyes. The HUD also has a lot of lighting adjustments and withstanding you can adjust the visual line thickness to your preferences, as I found that the middle setting was the best overall compromise.

 

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External lighting is average. Lighting is not at all refined and in places glows through the aircraft's wings or fuselage or with large halos that follow the aircraft around making it look like a UFO. The ‘Slime Lights’, or formation markers are however good. Front wheel strut has a dual single taxi/landing lights built in.

Biggest visual night blank is the well lit forward cockpit and the very dark rear position, looks odd.

 

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Liveries

Huge selection of liveries including...   USAAF Flighttest, VFA-32 Swordsmen, VFA-41 Back Aces, VFA-102 Diamondbacks, VFA-103 Jolly Rogers, VFA-147 Argonauts, VFA-213 Black Lions, Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, Switzerland, Factory rollout and neutral

Out of the 16 liveries, two are included by default. The other ones can be downloading for free on the X-Plane.Org forum. There is a great new US Navy VFA-106 Gladiators livery designed for the Centennial of Naval Aviation available in there as well.

 

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Summary

Overall this is a brilliant F/A 18-F Super Hornet aircraft for X-Plane. A great aircraft with a great interface that has obviously been a lot of development to make it as authentic as possible, but there are a few nitpicks here that will hopefully be covered in an update because the basics are very, very good.

 

A lot of the switchgear is just for show and the developers note that as the aircraft has only a "Reasonable system depth" interface, in saying that most of what you need is in there and where it counts it is very good. Externally you would like more visual details, it is good as the textures (liveries) show and with the highlighting of aircraft features, but the paneling is a bit flat of where it should be more 3d detailed. The rear cockpit panels are also quite a dead area and it shows visually on the ground, in flight and certainly at night, ditto the non-rotating engine fans. External lighting is average.

 

But for flying and being used as a weapons platform the F/A 18-F is excellent, and it is a very challenging aircraft to fly in many areas, in not only in its sheer speed and ability but in using your head in using your resources in fuel and weapons to their maximum advantages.

If you like these modern multi-role fighters then you will love the F18 and it is certainly one of the really great 4th Gen warfare aircraft, I have RAAF F18's flying over my home city almost every other month or so and you can never mistake this amazing machine as it powers down our coastal areas then flicks back over the coastal ranges to return to Amberley Airbase near Brisbane. Yes they always will give you goosebumps of a thrill, but now better still you can fly this same aircraft with Colimata's excellent F/A 18-F to your hunters delight and get that kill you always wanted...  in a nice way.

 

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The FA18-F Super Hornet by Colimata is available from the New X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

FA18-F Super Hornet

 

And is priced at only US$24.95

 

Requirements:
WINDOWS ONLY (for now)
X-Plane 10.40+ (any edition)
min 1Gb VRAM Video Card (low X-Plane settings) - recommended 2Gb VRAM
Current version: 1.01 (last updated  March 23rd 2016)
 
Features:
Interactive displays with custom programmed menus and indicators:
  • Custom FA-18F Attitude direction indicator, Engine indicator, Horizontal situation indicator with navaid information and navaid map, Flight data indicator, Weapons indicator, Fuel indicator, RADAR.
  • Custom upfront control display (below the HUD). Interactive menus for COM1, COM2,
  • Autopilot, Settings, NAV1 and NAV2. Functional keyboard for value input. 12 storage slotsfor COM frequencies plus 12 storage slots for NAV frequencies.
  • Simple navigation via the HSI map.
  • All displays adjustable in brightness and contrast (color).
Custom gauges:
  • Fuel/engine information gauge with working nozzle indicators, fuel information for internal and external tanks and engine values. Animated standby instruments. Radar warning receiver.
Interactive consoles:
  • With a lot of functionality, many animated switches, includes working gauges. Hideable throttle and stick, working ejection handle.
Reasonable system depth:
3D HUD:
  • Ultra realistic, projected, collimated, focused to infinity 3D Head up display.
  • Projected: The HUD is only visible from realistic angles, and moves realistically with the pilots head movements.
  • Focused to infinity: The symbols stay on the same focused point, even if the pilot head moves.
  • Collimated: The size of the HUD stays the same relative to the pilots eye, no mater if he's near or far the HUD.
  • HUD symbology partially rejectable/hideable (pitch ladder, bank scale).
  • Adjustable line thickness, brightness, color. Info about gear,flaps, tailhook, ILS, AoA (plus AoA bracket) and many more directly in the HUD.
  •  

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Installation and documents:

Download for the F/A 18 Super Hornet is 398.80meg and the scenery is deposited in the "Fighters" X-Plane folder at 433.20mb.

Documentation:
  • Quick start manual for the cockpit (23 pages)
  • Landing speeds charts
  • Full manual available Here
  • FA-18F support contact
  • Upcoming video tutorials in word form coming will also be available on www.youtube.com/colimatavideos
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Review by Stephen Dutton
14th April 2016
Copyright©2016: X-PlaneReviews
 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 8 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 10 Global ver 10.45

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Scenery or Aircraft

KTCM - McChord Field - Seattle, WA - Gateway to Boeing Country by Tom Curtis (X-Plane.OrgStore) - US$29.95

 

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