The US Navy has received its first of 78 contracted Block III Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, after the initial example departed Lambert International Airport in St Louis, Missouri, and arrived at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland, on September 27 - where it will be operated by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 (VX-23) 'Salty Dogs' for testing purposes.
The Block III is the latest and most advanced version of the Super Hornet platform and passes capabilities of fourth generation fighter aircraft. The aircraft will be operated by VX-23 to complete the US Navy flight test programme before being moved on to a frontline operational squadron.
The capabilities of the Block III include a reduced radar signature, advanced cockpit systems with a 10-in-by-19-in touch screen display, enhanced networking for increased communications, open mission systems, advanced sensors which will detect and target adversaries from a wider radius and a 10,000-hour airframe, which is a 40 percent increase in service life from previous Blocks.
Capt Jason “Stuf” Denney, the US Navy's F/A-18 and EA-18G program manager said: “The fleet needs capabilities to keep its edge. Getting the first operational Block III in our hands is a great step forward in supporting our capability and readiness goals.”
The Block III with its new adjunct processor turns it into a fighter that will do more work and in a much smaller time frame, which increases a pilot’s situational awareness whilst in theatre. The Block III Super Hornet is ready to receive apps-based solutions that will allow upgrades throughout the Block III’s service life.
Boeing will keep delivering Block III capabilities to the US Navy through the mid-2030s. This via three lines of delivery, one being a new build production line, and two service life modification lines extending the life and upgrading the Block II Super Hornets to the Block III model.
Boeing's vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18G programs Jen Tebo added “We invested in Block III technology and developed the capabilities in partnership with the US Navy to meet its emerging requirements. The hardware upgrades are complete. Today we are maximizing the open hardware and software and developing the apps to keep Block III ahead of future threats. We are giving Navy pilots the tools to make the fastest and most informed decisions possible now and in the future.”