The sunset could be farther off than thought for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the mainstay of the U.S. Navy’s carrier-based fighter fleet. With initial operational capability of the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter that will eventually replace the F/A-18 now planned in early 2019, Boeing and partner Northrop Grumman are proposing an “Advanced Super Hornet” upgrade designed to operate until 2030 and beyond.
Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) last week notified Congress of another massive sale to Gulf countries by American companies. Saudi Arabia is buying air-launched weapons worth $6.8 billion for its new F-15SA Strike Eagles; the UAE is buying air-launched weapons worth $4 billion for its F-16s. The main U.S. contractors to benefit are Boeing (providing SLAM-ER and Harpoon missiles and small-diameter bombs) and Raytheon (providing JSOW missiles and Paveway “smart” bombs).
Boeing is flight-testing an F/A-18F Super Hornet with conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), an enclosed weapons pod (EWP) and “signature enhancements” designed to substantially increase the range and reduce the radar signature, compared with the U.S. Navy’s Block II Super Hornet.
Brazil’s Força Aérea Brasileira (FAB) plans to retire its fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters at the end of this year. The announcement has brought new focus on Brazil’s longstanding but deferred FX-2 new fighter requirement. In testimony to the Brazilian Senate on August 13, FAB Commander Lt. Gen. Juniti Saito defended the need for new fighters to maintain an adequate air defense, as well as for the benefits any purchase would bring to Brazil’s own aerospace sector.
Raytheon won a hard-fought contest to develop the U.S. Navy’s future airborne electronic warfare system, the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ). On July 8, the Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) said that it had awarded Raytheon a $279.4 million contract for the NGJ technology development (TD) phase.
The events in Sabah, Malaysia, this past March, when local forces conducted Operation Daulat used combat jets to quell the resistance of the Filipino gunmen on the island of Borneo, may have prompted a spate of arms sales to that country and her closest neighbors. The armed forces do have a big wish list for weapons, but procurement processes for the most expensive and longest-lead items are likely to be launched properly only after the general elections in Malaysia later this year.
Australia’s recent decision to buy 12 new-build EA-18G Growler electronic warfare variants of the F/A-18F has given manufacturer Boeing hope that it can sustain its Super Hornet production line in St. Louis, Mo., to 2016 and beyond.
Major fighter manufacturers displayed their wares this week at the 2013 Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition in Malaysia in anticipation of that country’s pending requirement for new fighters. Five aircraft considered contenders for the program–the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab JAS-39 Gripen, Dassault Rafale, Boeing F/A-18F and Sukhoi Su-30MKM–participated in the aerial display.
Faced with growing costs in the Lockheed Martin F-35 program, Denmark is reviewing its options for a new fighter and has invited Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Eurofighter (Typhoon) and Saab (Gripen E) to submit information for alternatives. A decision is due in 2015. Dassault (Rafale) may have been approached, but at the time of writing appeared unlikely to respond. The company has a history of not bidding on programs that it calculates have little chance of success.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) will convert half its fleet of 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets to EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. Australia’s Department of Defense will acquire Growler modification kits from the U.S. through a foreign military sale (FMS) for $1.5 billion, the department said on August 23.