Boeing is working on updating its Block II version of Super Hornet fighters to Block III and is preparing to roll off the production line next year.
“The Navy’s carrier air wing doesn’t need us to be at F-35 level of stealth to perform the missions the carrier air wing has to do. The Navy needs an F-18 to stay on station longer, deliver more weapons and be better integrated into the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) system,” Boeing’s F-18 program manager Dan Gillian was quoted as saying by USNI Wednesday.
“They need us to improve our radar cross section and they need us to carry large amounts of ordinance far forward,” Gillian said.
The Block III Super Hornets are slightly stealthier than Block II fighters, will have greater range, ability to carry more weapons on a robust airframe designed to last upto 9,000 flight hours- about a decade longer than the current airframes. The fighters also have superior data processing and communication capabilities than previous versions.
“The Navy has requested funding for new-build Block III planes starting in Fiscal Year 2019.The first new-construction planes would deliver in early 2021,” Gillian said.
Boeing is working on a solution to a vexing problem of networking onboard Block III Super Hornets. Gillian did not elaborate more on the solution.
Perhaps the most visible change to the jets is the location of fuel tanks on Block III Super Hornets. Instead of carrying external drop-tanks as previous versions did, the Block III Super Hornets will have conformal fuel tanks installed behind the cockpit on the jet’s shoulders. These hold slightly less fuel, but because they are lighter and make the jet more aerodynamic the end result is an increased range of about 129 nautical miles, Gillian said.