The first operational Block III jet will be delivered to the Navy in early 2021.
Boeing delivered the first two F/A-18 Block III Super Hornets to the U.S. Navy for flight testing. One jet is a single-seat E model and the other is a two-seat F model.
“The aircraft will be used for carrier suitability and integration testing of all Block III mission system components,” said Steve Wade, Boeing vice president, F/A-18 & EA-18G programs, in the company news release. “These test jets will ensure crews have plenty of time to become comfortable with the new, next-generation systems before receiving operational aircraft.”
The two Block III Super Hornets have been delivered to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 “Salty Dogs” to Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River for carrier suitability trials, before heading to Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake (CA) for weapons tests.
The Navy will use the aircraft to familiarize pilots with the advanced cockpit system’s new 10-inch-by-19-inch touchscreen display and test the capabilities delivered with the enhanced network capability.
In addition to these enhancements, the Block III configuration adds capability upgrades that include longer range, reduced radar signature and an enhanced communication system. The fighter’s life also will be extended from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours.
The first F/A-18F Block III Super Hornet (construction number F287) has been rolled-out from the final assembly on May 8, 2020, and performed the maiden flight a few days later.
Last year, Boeing was awarded a contract from the Navy for 78 new-build Block III Super Hornet aircraft through 2033, with eventually all current 573 Super Hornets to be modified. The US Navy has yet to decide what to do with the EA-18G Growler fleet, possible the 160 aircraft will also get the Block III mods from 2025.. Boeing and Navy test teams have also flown conformal fuel tank prototypes.
Photo credit: Boeing