Boeing and the US Navy have successfully demonstrated the ability of the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft to launch from a ski-jump ramp. The ski-jump test was carried out at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, US.
It was conducted to show the naval jet’s compatibility to operate with the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers’ short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) system.
Posted by Boeing on its Twitter account, the interesting video in this post features an F/A-18 Super Hornet completing a take-off from a ski jump ramp during a demonstration at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland.
The Indian Navy has expressed interest in potentially purchasing Super Hornets and the demonstration was completed to ensure the jets could launch from the Indians’ aircraft carriers, configured with Short Take-Off but Arrested Recovery (STOBAR), commonly referred to as a ski jump.
As told by Carrie Munn, F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office Communications, in the article Super Hornet demonstrates ski jump launch and appeared on Naval Aviation News, the extensive planning and day-to-day coordination between the F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office International Business and Test and Evaluation (T&E) teams, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, and aircraft manufacturer, The Boeing Company, resulted in a series of test events in the last summer demonstrating the capability in a variety of load configurations.
The program office T&E Lead, Jackie Dvorak, credited the Navy-Boeing collaboration and the expertise of the supporting test team for continually adjusting to make the demo successful.
“The India ski jump demonstration is exactly what we do in developmental flight test with mitigating risk through extensive and detailed test planning and safe execution,” she said.
The supporting team worked with Boeing’s simulation data and information gleaned from previous ski jumps conducted with the F/A-18 Hornet and F-35B Lightning II to develop an Interim Flight Test Clearance. They identified a suitable test jet and instrumented it to capture data in real-time and completed multiple test events.
The team also hosted Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for International Program Rear Adm. Frank Morley and representatives from the Indian Embassy, who watched a ski-jump launch flight test in-person, toured the aircraft and were briefed on the potential sale of Super Hornets to the Indian Navy. India’s fighter jet procurement decision is anticipated as early as next year.
It’s also worth noting that the Super Hornet’s progenitor, the F/A-18A/B Hornet, also undertook ski-jump tests during its initial development, although that wasn’t to satisfy potential Indian Navy requirements.
“The first successful and safe launch of the F/A-18 Super Hornet from a ski jump begins the validation process to operate effectively from Indian Navy aircraft carriers,” said Ankur Kanaglekar, head of India fighter sales at Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security division. “The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet will not only provide superior warfighting capability to the Indian Navy but also create opportunities for cooperation in naval aviation between the United States and India.”
The Block III is the latest and most advanced version of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, offering longer range and reduced drag with conformal fuel tanks, an infrared search and track sensor, Advanced Cockpit System, signature reduction, and a 10,000+ hour life.
Boeing says it expects to deliver Block III-configured Super Hornets to the U.S. Navy in 2021 and, by 2024, one squadron within each carrier air wing should consist of Block III jets, either upgraded or new-build.