Boeing has unveiled a series of advanced options for international customers of the F-18 E/F Super Hornet, including conformal fuel tanks, a pod for the internal carriage of weapons, an internally-mounted infrared search and track (IRST) sensor, and enhanced engine performance.
The new options could be available for Super Hornets delivered from 2015 onwards, though the options can be retrofitted to Block II versions of the aircraft, says Boeing. The options are currently in the "concept definition phase."
Boeing says that one of these options, 15-20% improved performance for the aircraft's two General Electric F414 engines, was offered to India in the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition.
The conformal fuel tanks will be able to carry up to 3,000lbs of additional fuel, while reducing the aircraft's drag and improving its lift, says Boeing.
The enclosed weapons pod will both reduce drag and improve the aircraft's low observable characteristics as compared with weapons carried externally. The pod will be able to carry up 2,000lb of munitions. Alternatively, two enclosed weapons pods can be carried under the aircraft's inboard weapons pylons.
"Ninety five percent of missions don't require stealth, but this pod is for the five percent that do require more stealth," says a Boeing spokesman.
Another option will be a cockpit display featuring a single, 11x19in display with improved graphics and a touch screen interface. The screen will allow pilots to manipulate flight and combat data on a single large screen. The large screen will also be more effective at displaying information produced by the aircraft's APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar when operating in multiple modes, such as air-to-air and air-to-ground.
The IRST sensor will be slung under the nose to the gun bay door. While US fighters typically don't have an internal IRST capability - instead relying on AESA - IRST is stipulated in India's MMRCA request for proposals.
The Super Hornet is one of six MMRCA contenders. The other aircraft are the Saab JAS 39 Gripen, Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60 Super Viper, RSK MiG-35, Dassault Rafale, and Eurofighter Typhoon. India is likely to announce a shortlist later this year.