on 8 May, U.S. aerospace giant Boeing announced that first F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet test jet has rolled out of final assembly.
The U.S. Navy recently took delivery of the final Boeing F/A-18 Block II Super Hornet fighter aircraft, closing out a run of 322 one-seater F/A-18Es and 286 two-seater F/A-18Fs. From now on, all aircraft manufactured for the Navy will be in the Block III configuration.
These test jets will head to the U.S. Navy, where they’ll help pilots familiarize themselves with the updated jets and be used in flight tests from aircraft carriers.
Boeing has released a video of the rollout of the first of two Block III F/A-18F Super Hornet test jets for the U.S. Navy. The service plans to use these aircraft, which do not feature the full set of upgrades, for various flight tests and to explore new concepts of operation ahead of the delivery of jets with the complete Block III package, which is set to begin later this year.
The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet is the newest highly capable, affordable and available tactical aircraft in U.S. Navy inventory. The Super Hornet is the backbone of the U.S. Navy carrier air wing now and for decades to come.
The combat-proven Super Hornet delivers cutting-edge, next-generation multi-role strike fighter capability, outdistancing current and emerging threats well into the future. The Super Hornet has the capability, flexibility and performance necessary to modernize the air or naval aviation forces of any country.
Two versions of the Super Hornet – the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model – are able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions.
The Block III configuration adds capability upgrades to the existing Block II aircraft that include enhanced network capability, longer range, reduced radar signature, an advanced cockpit system and an enhanced communication system.
The most visible upgrade is the conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) which would bring more range, more persistence and less drag to the aircraft.
The aircraft is equipped with a Block II IRST system consisting of Lockheed Martin’s IRST21 sensor, the GE Aviation FPU-13 Fuel Tank Assembly and the Meggitt Defense Industry Environmental Control unit. There is also minor structural treatment to decrease the Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the aircraft such as a redesigned muzzle as well as improved angle of attack sensors. The fighter’s life also will be extended from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours.
Boeing is expected to deliver the Block III test jets to the Navy as early as late spring, where subsequent testing will commence at both NAS Patuxent River and Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake.