The US Navy (USN) may roll-out future upgrades for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet beyond the Block 3 enhancement currently earmarked, as it looks to maintain the combat aircraft in service for decades to come.
Speaking at the company's St Louis facility in Missouri, Larry Burt, director of Global Sales & Marketing for the Global Strike division, said that, while the USN's focus is currently on the Block 3 upgrade that it set to begin rolling off the production line in 2020, further enhancements are very likely as the USN looks to maintain the combat aircraft in service out into the 2040s.
"When you look at flight plan for the future of the aircraft, there could well be lots of new capabilities added after Block 3. The Block 3 is built around a new processor that is a hundred times more powerful that today's. This processor resides outside of the aircraft's Operational Flight Program [computer], and so is not tied to its five-year software development cycle. It is truly open architecture that allows for plug and play of weapons, sensors, and systems," Burt said.
With a programme of record of 568 Super Hornet strike fighters and 160 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare (EW) aircraft, Boeing is rolling out new airframes at a rate of about two per month. Having revealed its Advanced Super Hornet concept in 2013, the company is now focused on the follow-on Block 3 configuration that will be the new baseline model for all aircraft built from 2020.
Included in Block 3 are upgrades to the Raytheon AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar; an Elbit Systems large area display (LAD) 'glass' cockpit and next-generation avionics; an infrared search and track (IRST); 'shoulder-mounted' conformal fuel tanks (CFTs); Integrated Defensive Electronic Counter Measures (IDECM); and new General Electric F-414-400 enhanced engines.
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