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F/A-18 Block III gearing up for first deployments

Boeing delivered its first F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III to the US Navy on 31 August 2021. (Boeing)

The US Navy (USN) has inducted around 33 Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet Block IIIs into the air fleet, including around 20 for operational squadrons VFA-25 and VFA-113, with the remainder going to test units. The operational squadrons, which are based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California, and fly the single-seat F/A-18E, are both gearing up for carrier deployments, Captain Jason Denney, F/A-18 and EA-18G programme manager, told Janes. Although he declined to specify when the squadrons will deploy, aircraft carrier air wings usually begin training around a year before deployment.

Use by operational squadrons far exceeds the number of hours that can be flown in a test environment. Now that the Block III is in the fleet, it is performing well so far, Capt Denney said.

“There are, like anything new, growing pains with reliability [and] maintainability. We've been working with Boeing and their vendors to correct some of these things as we go forward,” Capt Denney told Janes, naming the new low-profile heads-up display (HUD) and larger cockpit displays as initially troublesome. “But we've gotten most of the major issues worked out [and are] just working on making sure we have enough spare parts to support their deployments, which is typical anytime you field something new.”

Block enhancements aside, Super Hornet incremental upgrades generally come in the form of Software Configuration Sets (SCSs). SCS H16 is the current fleet standard, while H18 is slowly rolling out.

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