Thank you to Haagen Klaus, Bert Kinzey and Rock Roszak for continuing to bring back a tremendous resource for the modeler and aviation historian, in a digital format. Thank you to the IPMS Reviewer Corps for allowing me to test out this new and exciting method of researching history, details, and versions of the Super Hornet.
The publication is a thorough and up-to date documentation of the Super Hornet and derivative Growler, well-suited for modeler and the aviation aficionado. The first Detail & Scale Super Hornet volume was released in 2004 at the start of the Super Hornet’s operational service, when far less documentation and photographs were available. Vol 9 includes much more information than what was available in 2004. While I am not a subject matter expert on the F-18 family, I found all the material contained in this volume to correlate well with information accessible to me, including current NATOPS documents. I certainly learned a thing or two during this review!
This iBook features 240 digital pages, 306 zoomable high resolution digital photographs, and five superb illustrations. The iBook format retains the cherished look and feel of the original and current print-on-demand Detail & Scale series, and this new volume fits right in with my research collection.
Front Matter: The title page continues a Detail & Scale practice of a colorful content “teaser” with a superb color image of a VFA-115 F/A-18E launching from the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan, CVN-76. The list of contributors and sources fills a good part of a page and is a testament to the thoroughness of the volume. On digital page iv of the Front Matter section is an excellent description of how to use the iBook format on an iPad. I would expect a similar operational description in a Kindle version. The authors’ biographies begin on digital p. viii and the illustrator’s biography appears on digital p. xi. The lead author, Haagen Klaus, is appearing in his first Detail & Scale publication.
Introduction: This chapter provides a great context for the development of the Super Hornet. Many USN squadrons contributed both photos and access to the authors to allow an up-to-date volume.
Chapter 1 Super Hornet Origins and Development: The lineage of the F/A-18 family starts with the YF-17 Cobra. It is pleasant irony that a failed design competitor evolved to a highly successful aircraft today. Changes and adaptations to Hornet airframes to address operational shortcomings are highlighted. Intriguing stories about the never-developed A-6F, the flying wing A-12, and the Super Tomcat give some background for the eventual decision to proceed with development of the Super Hornet. The production contract for the Super Hornet was awarded to McDonnell Douglas on the same day that Grumman delivered the last F-14 Tomcat.
Chapter 2 Aircraft and Systems Overview: The F/A-18E/F certainly retains similarities to the legacy Hornets. In a very general sense, the Super Hornet looks like a slightly larger version of the earlier Hornet. Extra fuels cells are crammed in everywhere. Leading-edge extensions, low-observable features, improved avionics, cockpit, and powerplants are new additions. A widened range of weapons and stores make Super Hornet a completely capable multi-role aircraft.
Chapter 3 The EA-18G Growler: I personally found this chapter very interesting, as I have been looking for a good current accounting of the Growler for a modeling project. The nature of electronic warfare (EW) is nicely summarized, as well as the role of previous EW platforms used by the USN. The most distinctive feature other than the pylon and fuselage mounted ALQ pods are the wingtip pods that look somewhat like very stocky Sidewinder missiles. The Growler is not cleared to carry Sidewinders, but can carry HARM/AARGM for enemy radar site suppression. Furthermore, a pair of AIM-120s may be carried for air-to-air self-defense. The EA-18G incorporates aerodynamic improvements to improve flight stability.
Chapter 4 Flight Test and Operational History: The complexities and challenges of “debugging” flight problems were often solved with relatively simply fixes. The Super Hornets and the Growlers went quickly to the fleet, and timing was such that they also went quickly to war post 9/11. Since that time, the F/A-18E/F and the EA-18G participated in no less than 5 major operations in the Middle East, including the first hostile aircraft shoot down since Operation DESERT STORM. Over the last decade the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) purchased 24 F/A-18F and 12 EA-18 to supplement their fleet of aging “classic” Hornets.
Chapter 5 On the Horizon: Super Hornets and Growlers for the 2020s and Beyond: Intriguing upgrades and foreign sales aspirations are detailed in this chapter. Part of the upgrades are designed as stopgap measures that will later merge with the capabilities of the delayed F-35C Lightning. Conformable fuel tanks are the most visible upgrades, however low-observable coatings and improved avionics are included.
Chapter 6 Super Hornet Gallery: This chapter is a collection of excellent high-resolution images taken in a variety of settings. Five of the images are of “302”, the Super Hornet that downed a Sukhoi Fitter on 18 JUN 17.
Chapter 7 Growler Gallery: This gallery, like the previous gallery, is also a collection of excellent high-resolution images taken in a variety of settings. The six images nicely show the overall configuration and paint tonalities of the Growler.
Chapter 8 Super Hornet Details: This section is truly a gold mine of close-in detail images of the Super Hornet. The extraordinary quantity and quality of the images is exceptional. Multiple aircraft are represented, in varying degrees of operational weathering. I particularly appreciated the aircrew flight gear images and the section devoted to the Growler. I also discovered some model building challenges in tinting windscreen and canopy glass. The windscreen has an amber tint and the canopy has an iridescent tint.
Chapter 9 Modelers Section: This hallmark chapter reviews the extensive kit and aftermarket offerings for the
Super Hornet and the Growler. I had a Growler on my build list for many years and with the information in this section, I purchased a kit and add-ons. The corrections and suggestions in this section were easily accommodated in my build, greatly adding to a fun experience. The last part of the section highlights some of the shortcomings of the current offerings, particularly the aftermarket ones, but ends on an optimistic forward look toward many new possibilities for the scale modeler.
More from Detail & Scale: Many of the Detail & Scale online resources, publications, and related links are found in this section. The live links put all sorts of good information at your fingertips.
Content coverage summary: I found the volume’s organization to be excellent. I came away with a more thorough understanding of the Super Hornet and Growler development histories. I also spent lots of time in the extensive image collections, scheming about the best ways to detail a model!
In terms of content, this is another exceptional publication. In addition to the tremendous wealth of photographs and other information, this volume is written well, with an engaging style. The photograph resolution is superb, and the variety and diversity of images make Volume 9 invaluable. As always, the ability of electronic media to effectively conduct research and find information reduces barriers to verify and/or discover other sources.
Other considerations for digital format you should know:
I certainly would expect the first question a reader would ask is, "Why do I want a digital format book, instead of a paperback?" I like reading through traditional books as much as anyone else, with the page-by-page discovery of storyline or new information. I also have tons of books in my library, mostly in dusty residence on stoic-looking bookshelves. This e-book format provides many advantages for the modeler. I cannot imagine that this publication will not be a stunning addition to any USN aviation enthusiast’s digital or traditional library. I evaluated this copy in the iBook/iPad format, but operations on the Amazon Kindle platform are nearly identical. At about $13.00, you can’t beat the price! I no longer buy hardcopy references if a digital version is available, following the trend of many major research libraries.
But if you are not sold on digital format, Detail & Scale is taking advantage of print-on-demand technologies and at this time many of their publications are available in one-off, hard-copies for traditionalists. Everyone will be happy!
I am extremely positive about this publication, as I continue to be for all the D&S digital publications I use. I found Volume 9 to be an exceptionally effective and efficient research tool.
Detail & Scale Series Volume 9 has my highest recommendation. I can’t find any negatives in this publication or in the delivery format.
Thanks again to the wonderful folks at Detail & Scale! I am very pleased to see the Digital Volumes continuing to be released, and I’m sure I echo the thoughts of the modeling community in saying I hope to see many more of the Digital Series published. Thank you again to the stalwart Reviewer Corps for your hard work in making these review opportunities happen!