Boeing Unveils Aussie Super Hornet, Eyes More Exports
Boeing unveiled the first F/A-18F Block II Super Hornet for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at a July 8 ceremony in St. Louis. The aircraft manufacturer is building 24 Super Hornets for Australia, in two batches of 12. The first aircraft is due to be delivered in March 2010, and Australian production will run at roughly one per month. The aircraft will have APG-79 AESA radar installed. Australia selected the Super Hornet in March 2007 to cover a shortfall in capability created by the hasty–and irreversible–decision to retire the General Dynamics F-111 early, and the delayed delivery schedule of the JSF. The same review also praised the Super Hornet because of its ability to expand into other roles, such as electronic attack. To cover possible requirements in the future, the second batch of RAAF aircraft is being delivered with the necessary wiring for conversion into EA-18G Growler configuration.
Production for the U.S. Navy continues as the program nears the end of its second multi-year contract. Boeing is delivering 213 aircraft under those contracts. The company is optimistic of further contracts, and seems assured of at least another 89 in FY10-12. In the export arena, a best and final offer was submitted on June 8 to Brazil, where the F/A-18 is pitted against the Gripen and Rafale. Field evaluations of the six competitors for India’s 126-aircraft MMRCA competition begin at the end of this year. Boeing has also responded to an RFI from Denmark, where the company believes its two-seat configuration may be a key discriminator. Elsewhere, Boeing is expecting a formal RFP from Kuwait, and also sees opportunities for the Super Hornet in Canada, Greece and Japan.