The U.S. Navy has started the process of eventually replacing its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter and the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare derivative. On April 13, the service issued a request for information (RFI) seeking industry concepts for the F/A-XX fighter to replace Super Hornets and Growlers around 2030.
The U.S. Navy released a draft request for proposals (RFP) last month for its future airborne electronic warfare system, the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ), signaling a shift in the $2 billion program to the technology development phase. Contained in under-wing pods on the Navy’s EA-18G Growler, the NGJ will suppress advanced, integrated air defenses, communications systems, datalinks and other threats, replacing the long-serving AN/ALQ-99 tactical jamming system on the Boeing EA-18G and retiring Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers.
The U.S. Department of Defense's undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics on May 14 certified to Congress that the proposed third Super Hornet/Growler multiyear procurement (MYP) met statutory requirements, including substantial savings. With this certification in place, the contract should proceed to cover the purchase of 124 aircraft over Fiscal Year 2010 through 2013.
Boeing is making further improvements to the F/A-18E/F, and evaluating a more powerful version of the Super Hornet’s GE F414 powerplants. A new core and a new fan that could deliver 20 percent more thrust are under investigation by Boeing and General Electric. Boeing F/A-18 program manager Bob Gower said that no change to the aircraft’s inlets would be required to increase mass flow. The core has already run in a test cell.
Earlier this month, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet completed a series of risk-reduction tests with an infrared search and track (IRST) system. A Boeing/General Electric/Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control team installed an IRST sensor in the nose of a modified 480-gallon fuel tank for the trials. The sensor was carried on the centreline station during six flights at NAS Patuxent River and four at NAWS China Lake.
Ahead of schedule and under budget, Boeing delivered the first of an expected 85 operational models of its EF-18G Growler to the U.S. Navy in early June, followed by three more during July and August. Electronic attack squadron VAQ-129 based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington, received the aircraft, which are expected to enter operational evaluation in September as the fleet readiness squadron fills out to five aircraft.