Good morning, Fightersweep Fans! It’s a heck of a title, isn’t it? If airplanes were women. But before anyone gets too bent out of shape, let’s remember the spirit of how Lex meant it, shall we? Honestly, if anyone feels offended by Lex’s anthropomorphic use of gender here, please feel free to substitute wife for husband and vice-versa. Or life partner…or…whatever.
Everyone good with that? Okay–moving on.
Today we bring you a great piece by the late CAPT Carroll “Lex” LeFon (ret), most famously known as the blogger Neptunus Lex. He became a legend before he passed: a Navy fighter pilot, TOPGUN Instructor, Squadron Commanding officer, brilliant writer, and devoted father and husband.
On March 6, 2012 he was tragically killed while flying his F-21 Kfir in support of a training mission at NAS Fallon, Nevada. Today, his writing is considered some of the best you can find on Naval Aviation, current events, or anything else his mind found worthy to transform into magnificent prose.
In the near future I am going to bring you an article about BFM in the mighty F/A-18, similar to the corresponding F-16 article written previously. For now, I will set the stage for that by paying tribute to this great piece of writing by Lex about flying the Hornet and the Viper (although his blog is no longer up, The Lexicans have revived some of his work).
So without further ado, here we go:
If airplanes were women…
The F-16N (N- for Navy variant) was a pocket rocket, lots of fun. Essentially a Block 20 F-16C with an A- model radar and no internal gun. It’d go like a striped-assed baboon, easily 800 knots on the deck. That was the redline, as fast as you were supposed to go, for various structural reasons (the canopy would start to deform, e.g.). Once, while running down a pair of Hornets trying to bug out, I caught myself going 840+, and she wasn’t even breathing hard yet. At that speed it’s hard to slow down.
The Viper (the Navy nickname) was also a G-monster. Thrust to weight was over 1:1 at takeoff (in our configuration). Nine Gs was the limit, and really it was all you could ever want. At 9 Gs, you feel as though you’ve got a safe sitting in your lap – the average pilot will feel like he weighs over 1000 pounds, and your peripheral vision will neck down until it appears that you’re looking at the world through a pair of soda straws. When you ease off, you’ll cough from all the burst alveoli in your lungs, and blood vessels will have popped on your forearms and under your thighs leaving bruises we called “G-measles.” So yah, it was a lot of fun!
The F/A-18 is a little more sedate. Doesn’t go quite as fast, doesn’t pull quite so many Gs. The cockpit was to my mind a lot more user friendly though, and the radar far superior. Slow speed maneuvering in the F/A-18 was also a strong point, since eventually all fights get slow (although since the Viper’s superior thrust-to-weight meant it didn’t get as slow as quickly as the Hornet did, this slow-speed advantage was partly offset). Since it’s a two-engine aircraft, there’s a lot more redundancy in F/A-18 systems as well. You could lose an engine and still fight your way home. Just try that in an F-16.
So when my friends would ask me which was the better airplane, I’d always tell them the opening lines to this entry: “If airplanes were women, you’d want to date the F-16 and marry the Hornet. The Viper’s fast, dances well and looks great at parties. But she’s a little high maintenance, and if you treat her wrong, she’ll kick you out of the car even in bad neighborhoods. The Hornet is the girl you bring to meet your mom. She’s there for you, and will bring you home when you’ve had too much fun downtown and gotten all [fouled] up.