Both, fulcrum and hornet, are purely carrier based naval fighters. Mig-29K is developed from land based Mig-29M whereas F/A-18E/F is purely a carrier based design from origin. Both are designed around 1980. The rapid and far-sighted modernization program of US NAVY is what keeps Hornet a formidable fighter plane over the sea. Similarly Mig-29K also rule the sky over Indian ocean being the only Naval fighter aircraft apart from Su-33K in that region.
Both of these fighters have seen drastic change from their previous variants. Mig-29K’s airframe is strengthened to withstand the stress of landing on a carrier. Its wing span is increased for STOL, folded wings, catapult attachments and arrestor hooks are attached. Undercarriage is also widened.
So as Super hornet’s capability is increased by reviving its airframe. The intakes are chaged to rectangular shape from oval to reduce the RCS and better airflow to the engines. Airframe is lengthened to carry more internal fuel. Wing length is increased to carry 2 extra hardpoints. The improved fuselage increases the AoA. But I’ll say still fulcrum is a bit more maneuverble than the Super hornet. Because the Fulcrum has a better thrust-to-weight ratio i.e 0.97 than the hornet’s 0.93. So it is obvious that Fulcrum has a better climb rate than hornet and it can position itself quickly into a more maneuverble position than hornet in a combat game.
Mig-29K has 2 RD-33MK
turbofans generating around 89kn thrust which has a 7% higher thrust than previous RD-33K engines of Mig-29M…whereas Super hornet has 2 F414 GE-400 giving 98kn thrust. So this is a straight advantage of hornet over fulcrum, 10kn more thrust. But still the fulcrum can do mach 2.1+ because of its lighter airframe whereas super hornet is only limited to mach1.8+. You see, here still Hornet after having a more powerful engine than Fulcrum, the mach number is limited. This is because of the airframe structure of fulcrum. If you actually notice in a wireframe diagram of both planes’ you will find that fulcrum’s wing configuration is actually much better for Mach 2+ flight due to a better sweep angle of wing’s leading edge. Whereas Hornet can do just fine below Mach 1.5 and has better handling ability. So may be we’ll call this round draw with FULCRUM having slight edge.
RADARS and AVIONICS:
In the field of radar tech americans are winners…but I’m not saying that Russians are dumb or so…they’re actually as good as the americans but they are just one step behind. Mig-29 has a Zhuk-ME a multi-mode X-band pulse doppler radar whereas Super hornet has an AN/APG-79 AESA radar. The Zhuk-ME has a detection range in, air-air mode, of 200km for 8sq.m RCS target and can track 10targets and engage 4 simultaneously. In naval mode it can detect a destroyer size target at 300km and 2 targets can be tracked one time. Other avionics of Fulcrum includes an OLS-29 IRST
system, ECM pod, Sigma-95GPS and a SPO15 Beryoza RWR. F/A-18E/F’s AN/APG-79 is an AESA system which is a clear advantage over Fulcrum’s Zhuk- ME. It has improved beam steering, 360 situational awareness and better detection range and jamming immunity…but the advantage of APG-79 is it features an
entirely solid-state antenna
construction, which improves reliability and lowers the cost. The radome of the APG-79 slides forward instead of hinging to the right, which saves space in aircraft carrier. Other avionics of Hornet are a AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR optical and targeting pod. Though russians are expected to replace the Zhuk-ME with Zhuk-AESA system soon…but Hornet wins the radar round with its AN/APG-79. Other avionics of Hornet include
*AN/ALE-165 Jamming pod
*AN/ASQ-228 Targeting pod
*AN/ALE-50 Towed decoy
*LINK-16 Datalink system
So in terms of avionics SUPER HORNET is a clear winner…due to the constant modernization program of US NAVY…not only radars but its other avionics(which i haven’t mentioned here) are superior and of greater capability.
EW CAPABILITY & COUNTERMEASURES:
RCS of both fighters are reduced by extensive RAM coating and airframe design. But although Hornet isn’t a true stealth fighter…but it has much improved RCS than fulcrum. Otherwise in terms of other countermeasures both are equally good only hornet has better jamming resistance than fulcrum due to its AESA system. But the hornet has a better suited for Electronic Warfare capability than fulcrum due to its AN/ALE-165 SPS jamming pod developed by Northhop grumann.
Fulcrum has a 30mm Gsh-1 cannon with 100 rounds
whereas hornet incorporates a 20mm M61 vulcan with 580 rounds. In terms of hardpoints Mig-29K lags 4 hardpoints from F/A-18E/F. Hornet has 13 where as mig has 9….this is because smaller wing area and lighter airframe of Mig-29K. Both can carry variety of Air-Air, anti-ship missiles and different guided and unguided bombs. But Fulcrum has one advantage over Hornet that it can accomodate different foreign missile too. But hornet is tailor made for american missiles only. In terms of anti-shipping capability may be Mig has slight edge with Russian Kh-35 and Kh-31A…although Hornet’s AGM-84 harpoon is equally good but still not upto russian standard. But due to the better loading capacity of Hornet Fulcrum will run out of missiles sooner than Hornet in an actual air combat.DRAW.
FINAL FACE OFF:
So from the above comparision we see that the Russians posses an advantage in terms of aerodynamic design but still haven’t mastered the radar tech and electronic warfare capability. So may be in an actual war Hornet will see the Mig first due to its better radar, but depending upon the Mig’s agility it may dodge the first missile by deploying flares or countermeasures. But I say chances are very low unless the pilot is Maverick even though he is an american. But hey…nobody will bet on the sides of low probability in a war. So if I’ve to choose between these two I’ll go with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which I might prefer to declare winner of this FACE OFF BATTLE#