The first US Navy (USN) Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to enter the Service-Life Modification (SLM) process ahead of the Block 3 enhancement programme arrived at the company’s St Louis production facility in Missouri in late April.
A twin-seat F/A-18F from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 ‘Gladiators’ that was first delivered to the fleet in 2004 will be the first of 300 Super Hornets so far received by the USN to undergo a comprehensive refurbishment ahead of the fitting of additional improvements under the Block 3 upgrade.
As previously disclosed in the SLM contract announcement from March, “The contract will include the following in support of comprehensive service life modifications to the Super Hornets to maximise aircraft in-reporting status, and return aircraft to the fleet with increased service life and capability: aircraft inspections and physical verification of fleet usage; warranty and non-warranty modifications; repairs incident to modification; recurring and non-recurring engineering efforts; logistics; project management; parts, kits, [and] associated materials; and data.”
The USN has a programme-of-record of 573 Super Hornets. While those aircraft already delivered will be retrofitted to the SLM and Block 3 standard, new aircraft rolling off the line from fiscal year 2022 will be built to this standard.
Taking elements of the previously touted International Roadmap and Advanced Super Hornet, the Block 3 will include 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. A new processor that is a hundred times more powerful than those of today makes this possible.
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