“The IRST Block II gives the F/A-18 improved optics and processing power, significantly improving pilot situational awareness of the entire battle space,” Jennifer Tebo, Boeing Director of F/A-18 Development.
For the first time, Boeing and the U.S. Navy flew an F/A-18 Super Hornet equipped with an Infrared Search & Track (IRST) Block II pod in late 2019. IRST Block II is a critical component of the Block III Super Hornet.
IRST is a passive, long-range sensor incorporating infrared and other sensor technologies for highly accurate targeting.
“The IRST Block II gives the F/A-18 improved optics and processing power, significantly improving pilot situational awareness of the entire battle space,” said Jennifer Tebo, Boeing Director of F/A-18 Development, in a company News Release.
Currently in the risk reduction phase of development, IRST Block II flights on the Super Hornet allow Boeing and the Navy to collect valuable data on the system before deployment to the fleet. The Block II variant will be delivered to the Navy in 2021, reaching Initial Operational Capability shortly thereafter.
“The IRST Block II sensor gives Navy fighters extended range and increasing survivability. This technology will help the Navy maintain its advantage over potential adversaries for many years,” said Kenen Nelson, Lockheed Martin Director of Fixed Wing Programs, supplier of the IRST sensor.
Other key features of a Block III Super Hornet are:
· 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.
· 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: US Navy