Boeing has officially launched the flight evaluation phase of its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft for Finland’s HX fighter replacement programme, with three aircraft arriving at Tampere-Pirkkala Airbase north of Helsinki on 18 February.
The arrival of one single-seat F/A-18E, one twin-seat F/A-18F and one EA-18G in Finland for Boeing’s HX Challenge evaluation followed earlier stints from the Eurofighter Typhoon from 9 to 17 January, the Dassault Rafale from 20 to 28 January, the Saab Gripen E and GlobalEye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft from 30 January to 6 February, and the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) from 10 to 17 February. Boeing will conclude proceedings on 26 February.
While the Super Hornets and the Growler being evaluated are in their current Block 2 and Block 1 configurations respectively, for its offering to Finland Boeing is pitching the Block 3 version of the Super Hornet and Block 2 version of the Growler which will be available to the US Navy from 2023 and 2025.
The Super Hornet Block 3 enhancements comprise the Advanced Cockpit System (ACS); the New Distributed Targeting Processor-Network (DTP-N) open-architecture multi-level-secure mission computer; the Block 2 infrared search and track system (IRST) for long-range passive targeting; satellite communications (SATCOM); conformal fuel tanks (CFTs); and a Service-Life Modification (SLM) to increase the aircraft’s service-life from 6,000 to 10,000 flight hours.
The Growler Block 2 will take a lot of what Boeing is doing on the Block 3 Super Hornet, including the ACS and CFTs (which for the Growler give the usual range and endurance increase, but also eliminates the blocking of the sensors that can happen with the drop tanks), and add an upgraded the electronic attack (EA) suite that features the Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ). Boeing noted to Jane’s that the exact configuration of the Growler Block 2 offer to Finland has yet to been defined with the US Navy.
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