The first F/A-18F Block III Super Hornet (construction number F287) has been rolled-out from the final assembly on May 8, 2020 Boeing recently announced.
By late spring 2020 two Block III Super Hornets will be 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.
According to Scramble Facebook News, the relative short test time the first two aircraft will spend with VX-23 is focused only on the advanced computing and networking capabilities of the Block III modifications, as the Super Hornet itself does not need further tests.
The development of what was then known as the advanced Super Hornet started in 2011, got its shape in 2013 and became known as Block III in 2017. The Block III programme is on schedule with first operational advanced Rhino’s expected to be delivered to the fleet by late 2020, early 2021.
The US Navy plans to procure 78 new-build aircraft through 2033, with eventually all current 573 Super Hornets to be modified. The US Navy has 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 has worked closely with the US Navy to address the strike fighter shortfall as well as to ensure the carrier air wing has the capabilities needed to outpace the future threat for decades to come. To address these needs, Boeing has developed the Block III Super Hornet.
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.
Photo credit: Boeing
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