Boeing announced that Boeing and the U.S. Navy flew a F/A-18 Super Hornet tactical aircraft equipped with an Infrared Search & Track Block II pod for the first time in late 2019.
IRST Block II is a critical component of the Block III Super Hornet.
The Block III conversion will include enhanced network capability, a longer range with conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system, signature improvements, and an enhanced communication system. The updates are expected to keep the F/A-18 in active service for decades to come.
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 the pilot situational awareness of the entire battlespace,” said Jennifer Tebo, Boeing Director of F/A-18 Development.
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.
The US Navy will receive the Block II variant next year when it will reach initial operational capability.
With the updates in place, the F/A-18 is expected to be an inactive service for more years.
Last March, Boeing received a contract modification worth $4bn from the US Navy to manufacture and deliver 78 F/A-18 Block III Super Hornets.