As Boeing inducts the first Super Hornet into its Service Life Modernization program and opens a new modernization facility in St Louis, Combat Aircraft October issue analyzes the latest status of the F/A-18E/F.
Boeing celebrated two milestone events on May 4; the official opening of its new Service Life Modification (SLM) facility in St Louis, Missouri, plus the induction of the first high-hour Block II Super Hornet — an F/A-18E — into this program. Boeing executives, including Boeing Defense president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg and US Navy RADM Michael T. Moran, the program executive officer for Tactical Aircraft Programs, were present to mark the event. The SLM facility is a boon for the St Louis area that — along with new Super Hornet production and upgrades — ensures jobs are safe through the mid-to-late 2020s and underscores a significant commitment by the Navy to maintain the Super Hornet’s strike fighter supremacy out past 2040. A second SLM line is being prepared in San Antonio, Texas, and it will begin receiving aircraft in 2019 as SLM runs out through fiscal year 2028.
The Navy awarded Boeing a $73 million indefinite-delivery contract on March 1, 2018, to extend the life of the first four of some 350 F/A-18E/F Block II Super Hornets from their originally-designed 6,000 flight hours to 9,000 hours. The contract also included provision to upgrade the aircraft with new Block III standard capabilities.
With its origins in the Advanced Super Hornet concept that was first revealed in August 2013, the Block III upgrade is a more modest proposal designed to help the Super Hornet support the carrier air wing in the expected threat environments of the 2035s and beyond.
Block III adds five further main capability upgrades, as Dan Gillian explains. ‘Block III is a funded program of record and it is really five big changes to the established Super Hornet Flight Plan. First is the Conformal Fuel Tanks to extend the range of the Super Hornet. We’ll fly a Super Hornet with Conformal Fuel Tanks [CFTs] later this year, so development is well underway. Second is an advanced cockpit system — that’s a new 10 x 19-in display — that changes to a next-generation interface, like an iPad for an airplane. We’ll fly the first airplane with the advanced cockpit capability next year .
For the full story from Brad Elward, don’t miss our October issue, on sale now.