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US Navy prepares to receive first Super Hornet Block 3 test aircraft

07 January 2020
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An F/A-18F sporting some Block 3 features, including the conformal fuel tanks. The US Navy is to receive its first Block 3 testbeds in the coming weeks. Source: Boeing

The US Navy (USN) is soon to receive the first Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block 3 testbed aircraft.

A representative from Boeing told Jane’s on 7 January that the first aircraft will be delivered “on schedule” later in the first quarter of 2020.

In 2019 at Boeing’s St Louis production facility in Missouri, Jennifer Tebo, Director of Development F/A-18 Program, said this schedule had been accelerated by about 12 months to allow the USN to have two test aircraft to start carrier suitability trials of the advanced computing and networking capabilities of the Block 3 platform.

With the first aircraft set to be handed over shortly, Tebo noted that Boeing will begin to deliver full-up Block 3 jets to the navy during late 2020 and early 2021.

Senior programme officials recently outlined the importance of what Boeing terms ‘the evolutionary approach’ to the Hornet platform that has resulted in the latest Block 3 iteration of the McDonnell Douglas aircraft that was first rolled out to the fleet in the early 1980s.

Boeing announced in 2011 that it was developing a USN Flight Plan upgrade path that would run in parallel with an International Roadmap for current and future export customers. With some tweaks, this Flight Plan/International Roadmap became the Advanced Super Hornet in 2013 and the Block 3 Super Hornet in 2017. In the FY 2018 President’s Budget, the USN fully funded the Block 3 development programme. This involves five major changes, or Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs), to the aircraft.

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