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Boeing's Super Hornet seeks export sale to launch 20% thrust upgrade

Boeing is seeking an international launch customer for a 20% higher thrust version of the General Electric F414 turbofan that powers the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The F414 enhanced performance engine (EPE) includes an all new core and forward fan to dramatically increase the fighter's takeoff performance, said Bob Gower, Boeing vice president for F/A-18E/F.

The improvements would increase the F414 thrust rating from 22,000lbs to 26,600lbs. The baseline F414-GE-400, which also powers the Saab Gripen demonstration aircraft, is itself a 35% higher thrust version of the F404 and entered service with the Super Hornet fleet in 1998.

More recently, the US Navy, Boeing and GE have been developing durability improvements to reduce foreign object damage and specific fuel consumption, Gower told reporters participating in a Boeing media tour.

While the USN seeks a new engine core to make the F414 more durable, some international customers are interested in a new engine fan that enables higher thrust, Gower said.

Boeing 
 © Boeing

"The 'enhanced durability engine' becomes the 'enhanced performance engine' when you put the fan on it," Gower said.

Although the core enhancements are already under contract with the USN, the programme is seeking an export customer to launch development of the F414 EPE, Gower said.

The international order would lead to follow-on sales for the USN, which would gradually replace its current inventory with the improved version, Gower said.

Several countries, including India, Brazil, Denmark, Greece and Kuwait, are considering the F/A-18E/F, with the Royal Australian Air Force already signed on as the first export customer. The RAAF has ordered 24 F/A-18E/Fs, including 12 provisioned to become EA-18G Growlers.

The improved thrust would likely be most welcomed among militaries operating in hot weather, which reduces engine performance especially at a takeoff.

Despite the dramatic thrust increase, the EPE would not require enlarging the F/A-18E/F's engine inlets to enable increased air flow, Gower said.

"We are not modifying the mould line of the aircraft," Gower said. "The current inlet gives us enough [air] in-take."

Gower also said the EPE would require changing the number of compressor stages, but he did not elaborate.

The USN is also planning to steadily improve the F/A-18E/Fs sensors, electronic warfare system, connectivity and weapons load-out over the next decade, Gower said.

"The US government and Boeing and our suppliers," said Gower, "continue to invest in the platform because we see opportunities both domestically and internationally for the platform."

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