Australia will purchase 12 new EA-18G Growlers from Boeing in order to fill a stop gap that is left from the F-35 program. Their defense ministry confirmed the purchase earlier this week. Earlier plans called for a conversion of 12 already delivered F/A-18F Super Hornets into the Growler configuration, for which they paid extra for in 2010. Analysts had speculated that the country would order an additional 24 Super Hornets this year, but it appears that plans changed somewhere down the line. The purchase will make the RAAF the first air force in the world to use the Growler, behind the United States Navy.
No word on cost or planned delivery dates.
The F/A-18E/F would get an additional 3,500 gallons of fuel, addressing a long standing issue for the Super Hornet… its range. Could this be the start of a Block III upgrade? The article goes into details about that too! Testing is expected to take place this summer by Boeing, no word on adapting this to the G models.
Built in 1996:
Built in 2013:
It’s a rather long article, so I am going to summarize the main points:
(Canadian press takes a visit to Boeing’s main hangar, look closely and you can see an F-15 wing to the far right)
And some words from Boeing’s chief F/A-18 test pilot and fellow Canadian Ricardo Traven:
Twin engines, dual redundant hydraulics … I mean, I can go on and on,” Traven enthuses. “Those are the things I don’t want to give up in flying to remote places or even in combat, because those are the things that’ll bring you home.”
Canada is currently looking at alternatives to the F-35, and Boeing’s Super Hornet is looked upon favorably due to the commonality with the country’s current CF-18 fleet. Australia is currently looking into buying an additional 2 dozen airframes, and Brazil has been looking at a 3 dozen purchase since 2010. To date over 500 Super Hornets have been delivered to the USN and RAAF, current orders keep the line open until 2016.
Boeing Phantom Work’s latest drone project, the Phantom Eye, has made it’s second flight out of Edwards AFB in California. The flight lasted just over an hour and gave the flight engineering team a host of in flight and landing data. Testing will continue throughout the year as they expect to fly to an altitude of 65,000 feet and for a minimum of four days without re-fueling. The company is self-funding the green project; it runs on liquid nitrogen and only leaves water vapor in it’s trail. The Phantom Eye was built in St. Louis between 2009 and 2011 before being shipped to California.
No test runs in over a week.. what gives!?
Spotted: An F-15SA being towed around. Still a little way’s to go until flight testing begins I assume.
Spotted: All three Super Hornet models (E,F,G) are in the flight test system at various points; first time in over a year!
A Missouri ANG C-130 did several touch and go’s at Lambert late last week.. never actually landing to my knowledge.
Various other test’s from Boeing aircraft.
Let’s bring on the February Action!
In some pleasant news today, it was revealed that in August the country of Qatar was given two F-15E Strike Eagles and two U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets for testing and evaluation. They plan to expand and update their fighter fleet with a contract of 25-35 new build jet fighters. Both of Boeing’s products have been in stiff competition, as the country is also considering the Rafale and F-16. Rafale is said to be the forefront choice, with Boeing’s jets trailing right behind. The country’s pilots got to fly and train first hand with the French in 2011. Boeing established it’s first office in Qatar back in 2010 with the sole purpose of this contract apparently. Nothing else is known about the competition such as requirements, but the decision should be made in a matter of months. I have to say that this competition is a bit odd, as the F-15 is in a completely different class than the F-18, Rafale, and F-16. No doubt it will have the highest cost of all of them, because it is meant for a much broader mission than the others. If South Korea chooses the Silent Eagle, this could give Boeing an advantage by having a share partner for the next generation platform.
So in the next year we have:
Brazil- Possible 36 Super Hornets (Main competition being Rafale).
South Korea- Possible 60 F-15SE Silent Eagles (Deadlock with F-35 and Typhoon).
Qatar- Possible- 25-35 Silent Eagles/Super Hornets (Main competition being Rafale).
Malaysia- Possible 18 Super Hornets (Main competition being Rafale).
Australia- Possible 18 Super Hornets (Main competition being F-35’s cost/timeline).
The stakes are high; there’s a lot of airframes on the line here!
Thank you to all of those who have fought for our freedom and ignorance. If you see anyone who has served today, or really any day in the year, give them the appreciation they deserve.
Just as Brazil has delayed their decision for their contract, a deal that could ultimately land Boeing a 36 airframe order for Super Hornets, South Korea has announced that they will also post-pown their final decision until sometime in 2013. The contract is worth 60 airframes, and Boeing’s F-15SE is seen as the main front-runner along with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 platform. EAD’s Eurofighter Typhoon is also competiing for the prize. Flight and simulation elevations took place in August and September in St. Louis, Fort Worth, and Europe. The decision was supposed to be made in October, but because of elections it has been pushed back because the country fears they would loose their bidding power in getting the best price possible per airframe. The decision to delay has been met with strong opposition from the ROKAF, but remains intact.
Boeing previously won the South Korean FX-I and FX-II contracts for a total of 61 F-15K fighters produced. Boeing is counting on localized production of main fuselage and conformal weapon bays, a set delivery date, large payload, and 5th generation enhancements to the airframe in order to win the contract. South Korea want’s the first delivery for the winning product to be by mid 2016, with a first flight one year prior.
Along with the next generation bomber and a Super Hornet replacement for the USN, the next big contract up for grads is the T-X bid for the United States Air Force; with a sole purpose to replace the old T-38 trainers. The USAF recently announced it’s specific requirements and wants for the project, clearly stating that an ‘off the shelf’ airframe would be strongly preferred over a new design.
That’s not stopping Boeing. The company has decided to use it’s resources from all of it’s divisions (Defense, Commercial, Etc.) and create a brand new trainer that has strong compatibility with the F-22 and F-35A. Their defense is that a shake-up is needed in the current bidding process, and that with a new design they are not limited to factors from an already produced variant.
The very fact that the company is planning to compete with a clean-sheet design is viewed by some analysts as bold. Senior Air Force officials have said they want to proceed with a program at the lowest possible cost and risk. The likely candidates are thought to be the existing designs now being pitched by foreign suppliers — BAE’s Hawk-based concept, the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 and Alenia Aermacchi’s M346. These companies all tout their designs as inexpensive because the development costs have already been paid by other customers.
Davis notes that since Boeing is not bounded by the capabilities of an aircraft that already has been built, the company can tinker with the balance of what learning can be done on the ground and what must be done in high-cost flight hours.
Although it is not easy to admit, Boeing does need something like the T-X bid in order to create a bridge for it’s fast jet industry. The F-15 and F-18 are both terrific airframes, but past the mid 2020’s production of new builds will be a challenge because of lack of demand. The hypothetical winning of this contract would keep Boeing’s St. Louis assembly line open, and keep their foot in the door for the fast jet industry. With Northrop out of the fast-jet market, Lockheed would be the sole monopoly for the North American armed forces.
Boeing has had plenty of history with trainers in the recent past, fielding the U.S. Navy’ T-45 Goshawk from 1992-2009. However MAC’s design was in partnership with the long standing BAE Hawk program, and this time BAE wants to submit an entry alone. Obviously this contract would be crucial for Boeing, and with no viable partnerships one can not blame them for being the black sheep and going at it alone. The company has not commented on how many internal funds they are willing to supply.
Boeing has designed a digital, 11 x 19-inch moving map display to install into the cockpits of its F/A-18 Super Hornets as part of the larger round of upgrades planned for the navy fighter jet.
Boeing Military Aircraft President Christopher Chadwick said Boeing expects U.S. and coalition navies involved with the F-35 program to seek F/A-18 upgrades to back fill against delays in the Joint Strike Fighter program.
Installing the Large Area Display that looks like a large, touch screen iPad is part of that upgrade package Boeing is developing. The first displays could be installed in 2015, said Philip Carder, a Boeing spokesman.
Boeing officials boast that a pilot can puncture the display’s screen with a screwdriver and expect it to keep working. Pilots can view six different screens that they can move around on the screen with a touch of their finger.
Radar screens can be manipulated to give a 3-D view of surface-to-air missile threats to account for altitude and terrain. If a pilot wants a better view of SAM threats, he can point and drag the screen to make it bigger.
Engineers have taken into account that pilots will be wearing gloves. Boeing leaders are working on streaming the feed from drones in the region directly into the cockpit, much like the Army does with its attack helicopters.
The U.S. Navy’s Super Hornet program manager did throw a bucket of cold water on potential F/A-18 upgrades at the Farnborough International Airshow this summer when he backed away a commitment from the Navy.
“The U.S. Navy has not committed to any of those yet from a domestic standpoint,” said Capt. Frank Morley in July.