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.
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
Bell Boeing, the joint venture that produces the V-22 and MV-22 tiltrotor for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, announced that it had successfully demonstrated the capability of that aircraft to serve as an aerial refueling tanker in trials with F/A-18C/D fighters. The test V-22 used a retractable refueling drogue. Bell Boeing has been promoting the V-22 for other roles, including that of the Greyhound COD resupply mission for aircraft carriers.
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.
Although the F-35 is in much better shape now than it was a year ago, “we’re not declaring victory yet–it’s still a development program,” said Lockheed Martin v-p of F-35 program integration Steve O’Bryan at the Paris Air Show. But O’Bryan noted that the top U.S. government procurement official had recently expressed cautious optimism and declared that there are no technical showstoppers.
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.
A long list of major U.S. aerospace and missile defense systems that have been compromised by hackers was obtained by The Washington Post. The list was withheld from the publicly released version of a Defense Science Board Task Force report to the Pentagon on cyber threats last January. The report concluded that “the DOD is not prepared to defend against this threat.” According to senior industry and military officials contacted by the newpaper, most of the hacking was done by China.
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.