Boeing expected to deliver late last week the first active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar-equipped F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block 2 to the US Navy. The company rolled out the second Super Hornet built to the Block 2 standard at the production facility in St Louis, Missouri on 21 April.

"This is a whole new aircraft," says Boeing F/A-18 programme manager Chris Chadwick. The Block 2 features the Raytheon APG-79 AESA radar, a redesigned forward fuselage and a Harris-built upgraded advanced mission computer linked to a fibreoptic data network. USN budget officials also are now considering adding a communications upgrade to the Block 2, says programme manager Capt Donald "BD" Gaddis. The upgrade would install the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), connecting the fighter to the internet protocol-based wideband network envisaged as the centerpiece of future strike missions. If the JTRS upgrade is approved, it will mark a major step in growing the Super Hornet's capabilities.

Stealth, meanwhile, is not a feature associated with the F/A-18E/F, but the fighter may be less observable by radar than commonly assumed. Boeing's design has bettered radar cross-section objectives set for the Super Hornet in 1992, says Gaddis, adding: "On the first day of the war, the Super Hornet is going to be there."

The Block 2 Super Hornet made its debut amid growing scrutiny of the future strike fighter spending plans for the US military, with Gaddis acknowledging that the current end state "may not be achievable".


Source: Flight International