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.
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
Raytheon’s RACR low-cost AESA upgrade radar for tactical aircraft is now ready for installation in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and awaiting its first order. The sensor draws on the technology used in Raytheon’s latest fighter radars, the APG-63 AESA versions in the F-15 Eagle and APG-79 in newer F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems has adopted a five-pronged strategy to drive forward through the current downturn, and to continue its growth from an estimated $33- to $34 billion revenues for 2009 in an era of increased focus on costs.
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.
Raytheon is launching here at Farnborough the latest member of its growing family of AESA (active electronically scanned antenna) radars. Known as the Raytheon advanced combat radar (RACR, “racer”), the new sensor is aimed at both the retrofit market, for aircraft such as the F-16, F/A-18 and others, or for installation in new-build fighters.
Boeing has embarked on a series of important initiatives–including a joint-venture proposal–that strengthens its ties with India. In the process, the company is hoping to become what Boeing India’s president, Ian Thomas, described as “India’s preferred aerospace and defense partner and provider.” Boeing currently is competing with five of the world’s major fighter manufacturers for a 126-aircraft order from the Indian Air Force.
Raytheon has won a competition to provide new radars for the U.S. Air Force’s entire fleet of Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles, maintaining its position as sole provider of radars for the Eagle family.
Boeing test pilot Ricardo Traven is flying his usual impressive routine here in the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet. The price of this significantly upgraded warplane to the U.S. Navy has been significantly reduced in recent years, so Boeing is bullish about international prospects. Australia recently became the first export customer for the Super, and Boeing is eyeing India, Japan, Greece and Switzerland, among others.