Boeing announced on 8 May that first F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet test jet has rolled out of final assembly. Two of these test jets will head to the U.S. Navy, where they’ll help pilots familiarize themselves with the updated jets and be used in carrier flight tests. The initial Super Hornets delivered under SLM will extend the service life from 6,000 to 7,500 flight hours. There are now 15 Super Hornets in SLM on production lines in St. Louis and San Antonio. It takes 18 months to complete modifications on an F/A-18, although that time will be driven down to one year as SLM progresses. Boeing will deliver five more Super Hornets this year.
The U.S. Navy now plans to upgrade a significant number of its remaining 540 Super Hornets to the new Block III standard. In total, the service has received 322 single-seat F/A-18Es and 286 two-seated F/A-18Fs with the Block II modifications over the past 15 years. As part of the FY18 budget was a requirement for 80 Super Hornets over the next five years as part of the Future Years Defense Program, including funding for Research Development, Test & Evaluation for Block III capabilities. The U.S. Navy added an additional 10 Super Hornets into the FY18 budget as its No. 1 unfunded priority.
The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet is the newest highly capable, affordable and available tactical aircraft in U.S. Navy inventory. The Super Hornet is the backbone of the U.S. Navy carrier air wing now and for decades to come. The combat-proven Super Hornet delivers cutting-edge, next-generation multi-role strike fighter capability, outdistancing current and emerging threats well into the future. Two versions of the Super Hornet – the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model – are able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, close air support, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions.
The Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet are twin-engine, carrier-capable, multirole fighter aircraft variants based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F tandem-seat variants are larger and more advanced derivatives of the F/A-18C and D Hornet. The Super Hornet has an internal 20 mm M61 rotary cannon and can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons. Additional fuel can be carried in up to five external fuel tanks and the aircraft can be configured as an airborne tanker by adding an external air refueling system. Designed and initially produced by McDonnell Douglas, the Super Hornet first flew in 1995.