Boeing has presented some details of its previously announced Block III enhancements to the F/A-18 Super Hornet at the Sea-Air-Space 2019 maritime exposition in the United States.
In March 2019, the United Status Navy awarded Boeing a US$4.04 billion multi-year contract for the production of 78 F/A-18E/F Block III Super Hornets.
According the Pentagon contract notification, the contract covered 61 single-seat F/A-18Es and 17 two-seat F/A-18Fs, and was for new-build aircraft separate to those in-service jets that are planned to be upgraded to Block III standard.
The Block III enhancements included the installation of plumbing and mounts for upper fuselage conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) – development of which was funded in February 2018, optical fibre wiring to support new generation sensors and weapons, a new Tactical Targeting Networking Technology (TTNT) datalink, and a new Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) computer.
Also included in the integration of the AN/ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures (IDECM) Block IV EW suite, new 10 x 19in large screen cockpit displays, enhancements to the AN/APG-79 AESA radar, and further detail improvements to the aircraft’s radar cross section.
“The initial focus of this program will extend the life of the fleet from 6,000 to 9,000 flight hours,” said Boeing’s Mark Sears, program manager for the F/A-18 service life modification (SLM) program, according to the Defence Blog website.
“But SLM will expand to include Block II to Block III conversion, systems grooming and reset and O-level maintenance tasks designed to deliver a more maintainable aircraft with an extended life and more capability. Each of these jets will fly another 10 to 15 years, so making them next-generation aircraft is critical.”
Many of the Super Hornet Block III enhancements will also be integrated with the EA-18G Growler as part of that platform’s spiral upgrade path, and so are likely to be seen in Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) service.
The US Navy currently has a program of record to buy 110 Block III Super Hornets. It is also a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II operator, having declared initial operating capability for the F-35C variant used for takeoffs and landings on aircraft carriers in February 2019.
The Sea-Air-Space 2019 was held at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland between May 6-8.