The added components include conformal gas tanks, a weapons pod, and an internally-mounted infrared search and track system added to a factory fresh ‘F’ model. The real testing will only be doing aerodynamic study’s on an older already delivered ‘F’. Here are some images from inside Boeing’s main barn in St. Louis. Boeing is currently trying to convince the USN for another multi-year contract.
Boeing will finally begin initial testing of conformal weapon bay’s and a stealthy weapons pod for it’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet this summer. The company is funding the testing along with Northrop Grumman and the United States Navy. These components are just part of the proposed Block III Super Hornet which includes the above plus upgraded engines and cockpit displays; the later two will not be tested.
Testing will begin in St. Louis this summer before moving to NAS Patuxent River, Maryland in the fall. No word on how much money the USN will actually use to field (if they field) these upgrades.
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.
Saudi F-15SA First Flight Video.
I can finally write this!
The USAF has confirmed before Boeing that the first F-15SA for Saudi Arabia made it’s first flight on February 20th, 2013 just before noon. Flown by veteran Boeing pilot Joe Felock, the flight lasted around 45 minutes before returning to the production facility. I was lucky enough to watch this historic moment as he slowly took the bird up; followed along by F-15E1 as it’s chase. This is the first fly-by-wire F-15 and also includes newly activated weapon stations and a fully colored cockpit display. F-15SA 12-1002 is the first of three F-15SA’s that will take part in a testing program at St. Louis and Palmdale, California (the second SA has already gone up over the last few weeks). Production airframes will begin flight testing in 2014 with deliveries planned from 2015 until early 2019. The Kingdom of Suadi Arabia has thus far ordered 84 F-15SA airframes, along with upgrades to it’s entire original F-15S fleet.
The F-15SA’s first flight comes less than a year after the initial start of the program. Congrats to Boeing!
Singapore is interested in buying more fighters. Over the past few months they have ‘low key’ been evaluating the F-35 and F-15SE… the South Korean F/X-III decision is expected to be a strong influence on the final decision. It is not known how many fighters they are seeking, or what timetable they are wanting delivery’s… not that we would know anyways as Singapore usually like’s to keep defense matters private.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has delayed the buy of thirty six new fighter jets for a third time. All bidding contractors were asked to re-submit their applications after March 30th, the delay will extend the negotiation time another six months. Brazil is unhappy with the amount of money needing to be spent and could be using the continued delays to negotiate a better overall price. Boeing is offering a Block II Super Hornet, Dassault its Rafale fighter and the Gripen from Swedish manufacture Saab. Boeing is seen as the front liner in the contract because of a competitive price, and recent agreements with Brazilian based Ebarer. Although first deliveries were initially set to start in 2014, the earliest as of now would be early 2016 because of the ongoing delay.
Brazil is just one out of many countries currently considering the Super Hornet, which also includes an additional buy from Australia and considerations from Canada and Malaysia.
Ricardo Traven tears the sky up at Farnborough 2012. Still trying to figure out what his call sign is when he fly’s around STL.
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.