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 U.S. Navy wants a replacement for the Super Hornet by the 2030’s. Below is Boeing’s concept:
Read more here.
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.
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.
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!
The RAAF has issued a request of information and pricing estimates for an additional order of (up to) 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets. The request comes after a year long evaluation of the country’s air power needs and an ongoing assessment of the F-35 program. This does NOT commit them to any order, but it opens the doors for another purchase sometime in late 2013 or early 2014.
Brazil, Malaysia, Denmark, and Canada could also be ordering Super Hornets over the next 2 years. The U.S. Navy recently added an additional 15 airframes to it’s MYP III order, and has pushed aside funds to order additional aircraft past 2015.
The United States Navy today announced that it will be ordering an additional 15 F-18 airframes to the MYP III contract. The original order was for 124 airframes, while an additional 12 were added on last year. This second add on brings the total number of hornets to 151 for the Navy’s third multi-year purchase. At least three dozen have already been delivered from the order this year; all will be completed by July 2015.
Boeing is urging Congress to act on a fourth MYP in order to extend the production line’s and keep the U.S. Navy fleet from shrinking any lower. To date the company has delivered over 550 F/A-18E/F/G’s to the USN and Australia.
The Block II and Block III variants are currently in compeition’s with Brazil, Malaysia, and Denmark while Canada has requested information on the airframe as well. Over 30,000 people worldwide are employed directly with the jet.
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!
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.
Brazil recently announced that it is delaying it’s fighter decision, indefinitely. They blame a poor economic progress report and a need to re-evaluate on what is truly needed for the country. The fighter competition has been going on for nearly a decade and as of now has no formal date for choosing a winner. Boeing has entered it’s Block II Super Hornet for the prize of 36 fighters, and has been pushing hard for a possible win. When asked for comment, Boeing stated ” we are prepared to wait for the decision of the Brazilian government”.
Looks like that may be a long wait.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)
Boeing has been pushing extremely hard for a contract with Brazil. After partnering with Elbit systems (a Brazilian company), continuous political lobbying, and freezing the price of the Super Hornet from two years ago, the company is now “highly confident” that it will win the six million dollar bid.
A recent decision to cancel a USAF contract from Brazilian contractor Embraer to supply Super Tucano aircraft has said to cause a lean away from buying an American product. Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff will be visiting with U.S. president Barack Obama soon, where talks for purchasing the aircraft will be in the forefront.
Winning this contract is crucial to Boeing in opening the doors for future export orders for the F/A-18. In addition the country could end up buying over sixty airframes over the next decade, keeping production rates down for future orders from the USN and RAAF. Malaysia and the United Kingdom are also discussing the idea of buying the aircraft in the future.
A decision is expected to be made in June.
Update: Now we can add this to the list!