While it has been known for sometime that Boeing and the USNavy intend to fly a modified F/A-18F Super Hornet equipped with conformal fueltanks (CFTs) and a weapons pod later this summer, some new details areemerging.
When the modified Rhino–as the Super Hornet isaffectionately known–does fly in late August or early September over theNavy’s Atlantic range with the new hardware, those CFTs and weapons pod willnot be functional, says Mike Gibbons, Boeing’s F/A-18 program manager. The ideais to test the aerodynamic qualities of those representative shapes, he says.
Mark Gammon, Boeing’s Hornet advanced projects chief, alsonotes that the aircraft will have a mock-up of an internally-mounted infraredsearch and track system mounted along with a slew of radar cross-sectionenhancement measures.
Gammon, who has worked on the Hornet since the first days ofthe original F/A-18A classic model jets, says that the CFTs won’t add any cruisedrag at high subsonic speeds, but it will have a negative impact on drag attransonic speeds–but the company has done a lot of engineering work to trymitigate that. In fact, Gammon notes, at low airspeeds, sometimes overall dragwith the CFTs is actually lower than a clean aircraft’s.
Configured with the CFTs and weapons pod carrying fourAMRAAMs, the jet performs roughly the same as a Super Hornet carrying fourexternal AIM-120s.