Boeing has delivered the first operational F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III to the US Navy (USN), marking a significant upgrade to carrier-borne fighter.
The delivery is the first of 78 contracted Block III examples of the fighter, says Boeing.
The updated aircraft features advanced cockpit displays including a large touchscreen, improved networking, open mission systems, a reduced radar cross section, and 10,000h airframe life.
“The fleet needs capabilities to keep its edge,” says Captain Jason Denney, F/A-18 and EA-18G programme manager. “Getting the first operational Block III in our hands is a great step forward in supporting our capability and readiness goals.”
A video of the jet’s departure from Boeing’s St. Louis production facilityin Missouri shows that the aircraft is a two-seat F/A-18F, which has yet to receive full USN markings.
The announcement follows the delivery of two new-build F/A-18 Block IIIs to the service in June 2020 for testing.
A key element of the upgrade is a new processor, that Boeing says can do more work in shorter timeframes, thus improving situational awareness. The aircraft can also be upgraded throughout its lifetime with what Boeing calls “apps-based solutions”.
The airframer will deliver Block IIIs to the navy through the mid-2030s via three assembly lines. One will build new aircraft, the other two will extend the life of legacy Block IIs and upgrade them to the Block III standard.
“We invested in Block III technology and developed the capabilities in partnership with the US Navy to meet its emerging requirements,” says Jen Tebo, Boeing vice-president of F/A-18 and EA-18G programmes.
“The hardware upgrades are complete. Today we are maximising 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.”