Boeing has received a one-year contract, which also includes a one-year option for 2020, to continue modernizing the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 fleet under the Service Life Modification (SLM) program. The $164 million contract for FY19 funds the standup of a second SLM line in San Antonio, Texas, complementary to the line established last year in St. Louis.
“The Service Life Modification program is making great strides as we’ve already inducted seven Super Hornets into the program, and will deliver the first jet back to the Navy later this year,” said Dave Sallenbach, program director in a company news release. “This program is crucial in helping the Navy with its readiness challenges, and will continue to grow each year with the number of jets we induct.”
The San Antonio SLM line is scheduled to receive its first Super Hornet in June, and a total of 23 Super Hornets over the course of this contract. The U.S. Navy fleet consists of more than 550 Super Hornets.
The SLM program extends the life of existing Super Hornets from 6,000 to 10,000 flight hours.
In the early 2020s, Boeing is scheduled to begin installing initial updates to the aircraft that will convert existing Block II Super Hornets to a new Block III configuration.
Key features of a Block III Super Hornet:
· Advanced Network Infrastructure using an improved computer (DTP-N), SATCOM, network throughput (TTNT) and sensor/platform integration, allowing large amounts of data on and off the airplane. It also has the increased ability to receive targeting information from platforms like the EA-18G and the E-2D Hawkeye. Enhanced situational awareness with a new Advanced Cockpit System. A new 10 x 19 inch touchscreen display provides the pilot with the capability to see, track and target multiple long range targets generated by the common tactical picture.
· Longer range with low-drag, stealthy conformal fuel tanks. The shouldermounted tanks can carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag, allowing the aircraft to operate longer, go faster, and/or carry more weight.
· Long-range detection with Infrared Search & Track (IRST). The long-range sensor can detect and target threats independent of radar, generating a multiship, common tactical picture at long range and allowing the Super Hornet to operate as a smart sensor node on the network
· Improved signature with low observable next generation radar cross section for increased survivability.
· 10,000 hour life for reduced life cycle costs by incorporating design changes into production aircraft based on lessons learned from the Service Life Analysis Program.
The updates are expected to keep the F/A-18 in active service for decades to come.
Photo credit: Boeing and U.S. Navy
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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