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F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighter

Country of Origin: USA


In production and in service.

First flight for the F/A-18E occurred on Nov. 29, 1995, and for the F/A-18F on April 1, 1996. First carrier landing was in January 1997. First delivery of a production model took place in December 1998. In November 1999, the Super Hornet entered operational service. At the same time, the Navy awarded Boeing a five-year contract for 211 aircraft.

Initial operational capability (IOC) was achieved in June 2001 with VFA-115. First operational deployment...


In February 2004, Boeing won a $61.8 million contract for a second low-rate initial production (LRIP) run of APG-79 radars for Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft. The contract covered the production of 12 radars, to begin in March 2004, with the first radar-equipped aircraft to be delivered in December 2005. The radars were installed in selected F model Super Hornets.

On July 7, 2004, an F/A-18F demonstrated the ability to send system status information to the ground-based automated maintenance environment (AME). The system used an existing tactical data link to transmit data to base operations while in flight. Upon receipt, the ground station automatically routes the data to sea- or land-based operational maintenance centers. The data enable maintenance personnel to respond with parts and equipment as soon as the aircraft lands, decreasing aircraft turnaround times.

On Aug. 30, 2004, the Navy took delivery of the 200th Super Hornet, an F/A-18F. The delivery was three months ahead of schedule.


In April 2006, an F/A-18F equipped with the APG-79 AESA radar demonstrated its ability to designate targets for other aircraft at Naval Air Weapons Center China Lake, Calif. During the demonstration, the AESA radar-equipped F/A-18F created a long-range, high-resolution synthetic aperture radar map and designated four closely spaced stationary targets. The aircraft then data-linked two target designations to non-AESA equipped Super Hornets, which successfully delivered four 2,000-lb JDAMs. All four weapons impacted the targets within lethal distance. The targeting Super Hornet then used the AESA to provide highly detailed bomb damage assessments to confirm the hits.


In August 2008, Boeing was awarded a $659 million contract covering 13 F/A-18F Super Hornets and three EA-18G Growler aircraft. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed by January 2012.


Australia took delivery of its first five Super Hornets on March 26, 2010. Six more aircraft were delivered on July 6. Another four aircraft arrived at RAAF Amberley in December 2010, allowing the Dept. of Defense to declare initial operational capability. The last batch included the first three aircraft configured to accommodate the Growler electronic attack system.

Boeing unveiled a new Super Hornet package aimed at international customers at the Farnborough air show in the U.K. in July 2010. The package included the enhanced performance engine (EPE), a weapon pod and conformal fuel tanks. This provides two options: enhanced power and conformal tanks to improve high-end performance and range; or a clean configuration with two weapons in the pod and two wingtip-mounted missiles.

Boeing and the U.S. Navy began flight testing the Distributed Targeting System (DTS) for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet at the Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake, Calif., in September 2010. The trials were scheduled to conclude in November 2011. The DTS uses onboard hardware and software processing to produce precise targeting solutions for Super Hornet crews, according to a Boeing release. Initial tests involved an exploitation processor and mass storage unit that were integrated with the aircraft's APG-79 radar and ATFLIR targeting pod. The equipment geo-registers imagery from the sensors and generates more precise targeting information against mobile targets. Expanded tests were going to integrate the radar's synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and ground moving target indicator (GMTI) modes. The DTS was expected to be incorporated in future software and hardware upgrades for Block II Super Hornets beginning in 2012.

On Sept. 28, 2010, the Navy awarded Boeing a $5.3 billion multi-year procurement contract for 124 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. The deal covered 46 F/A-18Es and 20 F/A-18Fs, as well as 58 EA-18G Growlers, with deliveries scheduled from 2012 through May 2015.

In December 2010, Australia declared its Super Hornet fleet operational with 15 aircraft.


On Jan. 25, 2012, Boeing received a contract modification adding 14 fiscal 2012, Lot 36, F/A-18E aircraft and one fiscal 2012, Lot 36, F/A-18F aircraft contained in the F/A-18E/F multi-year III production contract. The award increased the number of F/A-18E aircraft on the contract from 55 to 69, and the number of F/A-18Fs from 20 to 21. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed by October 2014.

Boeing revealed that it had launched production of a new distributed targeting system for the Super Hornet on Feb. 1, 2012. The system was part of the Navy's F/A-18E/F Network Centric Warfare Upgrades program and the F/A-18E/F Flight Plan, which were designed to ensure that the fighter remained ahead of emerging threats in coming decades. It provides enhanced situational awareness and precision targeting capabilities, including the use of geo-registration technology, which compares images taken from tactical sensors with an onboard imagery database to produce highly accurate target coordinates. Initial operational capability for the upgrade was scheduled for January 2013.

Boeing announced on Feb. 22, 2012, that it had completed delivery of 257 F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers under a multi-year procurement awarded on Dec. 29, 2003. The aircraft were purchased from fiscal 2005 to 2009 and delivered from 2007 to 2011. This contract included 47 aircraft added through fiscal 2009, including 24 F/A-18F fighters for Australia.

The Australian Dept. of Defense announced on March 19, 2012, that it would spend more than Aus$19 million (US$20 million) to procure long-lead items for the potential conversion of 12 F/A-18F Super Hornets to the Growler configuration. The equipment included electronic systems, antennas and high-frequency modulation receivers. A decision on the conversion was expected to be made later in the year after an evaluation was completed, according to a department release. The conversion was estimated to cost Aus$500 million (US$524 million), including funds for the wiring of the aircraft and long-lead items.

On April 5, 2012, Boeing said that it had completed a flight test of the prototype Distributed Targeting System-Networked (DTS-N) on a Super Hornet in late 2011. The system is designed to enhance the fighter's targeting capabilities. Based on the Boeing Adaptive Architecture, the DTS-N expands the capabilities of the soon-to-be-operational F/A-18E/F Distributed Targeting System by providing a significant increase in processing power and the ability to securely connect to advanced airborne networks. The framework is an open systems environment that allows for the swift interchange of software and hardware to support multiple missions.

In May 2012, Navy officials revealed that service plans called for Super Hornets to be replaced upon achieving 9,000 flight hours. Around 150 jets would be modified for a 10,000-hour service life. The aircraft could be replaced by a new jet being considered under the F/A-XX program from 2030 to 2035.

The Australian government requested the sale of 12 modification kits on May 22, 2012, to convert 12 F/A-18F Super Hornets to the EA-18G configuration. The potential US$1.7 billion deal also covered 34 AN/ALQ-99F(V) tactical jamming system pods; 22 CN-1717/A interference cancellation systems (INCANS); 22 R-2674(C)/A joint tactical terminal receiver (JTTR) systems; 30 LAU-118 guided missile launchers; command launch computers (CLC) for High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM ) and Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles (AARGM); spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; and associated logistics support.

Flight International for June 5, 2012, reported that a new distributed targeting system for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was scheduled to begin operational testing in the summer of 2012 and enter service by early 2013. The equipment will permit the fighter to take coordinates generated by onboard systems, such as the APG-79 radar and ASQ-228 ATFLIR pod and compare those with an onboard imagery database to autonomously generate GPS -quality targeting data, according to the magazine. Every Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler was expected to be retrofitted with the system. Other planned upgrades included a pod-based infrared search-and-track (IRST) system and APG-79 radar enhancements that would add electronic attack; electronic protection; and combat identification improvements. Enhanced multi-sensor integration capabilities were also said to be a priority for the Navy.

On Aug. 23, 2012, the Australian Dept. of Defense announced that it would move forward with the conversion of 12 Super Hornets into the Growler configuration. The program was expected to cost around Aus$1.5 billion (US$1.6 billion), with operational availability slated for 2018.

Boeing and the U.S. Navy on Sept. 6, 2012, flight-tested a new mission computer for the Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler . The Type 4 advanced mission computer (AMC) increases computing power and accelerates image and mission processing functions, according to Boeing. These advances will support new systems for the aircraft, including a distributed targeting system, infrared search-and-track and high-definition touchscreen display. The initial 90-minute flight aboard an F/A-18F verified that the system met safety and system requirements. The first Super Hornets and Growlers with the Type 4 AMC were scheduled for delivery in 2014.

Flight International for Oct. 2, 2012, reported that the Navy had launched an incremental program to add sensor-fusion capabilities to its Super Hornets. The first began operational testing on the Super Hornet and Growler in July 2012. Multi-Sensor Integration (MSI) Phase I was set to be rolled out to the fleet in 2013. The modernization "incorporates sensors for the air-to-ground mission," according to the Naval Air Systems Command. Phase I begins the process of fusing data generated by air-to-ground oriented sensors with data provided by off-board sources, such as data links. Phase II would improve the initial design and add air-to-air into the system architecture, said NAVAIR officials. This would allow the fighter to "correlate multiple ground and surface tracks from on-ship to off-ship sensor sources and to begin integration with the common tactical picture." MSI Phase II was expected to be fielded in fiscal 2014. A third phase would add counter-electronic attack and an enhanced air-to-air tactical picture, according to the Navy. The service also envisioned that firmware upgrades for the displays would allow the jet's processors to be fully utilized. The Phase III capability would be common to the Super Hornet and Growler , the Navy said.

On Nov. 30, 2012, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing a $687.6 million contract modification for the production and delivery of 15 fiscal 2013 (Lot 37) F/A-18E aircraft. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in July 2015.

The Australian Dept. of Defense announced on Dec. 13, 2012, that the air force's fleet of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets had achieved final operational capability. The milestone means the entire capability could be deployed on operations. It accounted for the aircraft, logistics, management, sustainment, facilities and training.

Separately, the Australian government said it was considering purchasing another 24 Super Hornets.

General Electric Aviation, Lynn, Mass., received a US$17.5 million delivery order on Dec. 19, 2012, for engineering and engine system improvement services as part of the F404 and F414 engine component improvement programs. The award combined purchases for the U.S. Navy (US$13.3 million/75.6 percent); Sweden (US$1.3 million/7.4 percent); Australia (US$832,277/4.8 percent); Canada (US$516,877/3 percent); Spain (US$514,156/2.9 percent); Finland (US$380,856/2.2 percent); South Korea (US$225,793/1.3 percent); Kuwait (US$233,955/1.3 percent); Switzerland (US$2014,030/1.2 percent); and Malaysia (US$48,967/0.3 percent) under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. Work was to be completed in December 2013.

Also on Dec. 19, Boeing received a US$8.9 million delivery order for 285 joint helmet-mounted cueing system (JHMCS) retrofit kits in support of F/A-18C and F/A-18F aircraft. Work was to be completed in June 2015.


As of January 2014, the U.S. Navy had a program of record for 563 Super Hornets, including 24 for Australia. A total of 490 had been delivered at the time.

The War is Boring blog reported on Jan. 10, 2014, that the Super Hornet was stealthier than was widely believed. Boeing officials have maintained that position, saying the plane is more capable against the latest hostile air defense systems. The jet has a certain level of stealth technology built in, as well as an advanced electronic warfare suite. This enables the Super Hornet to fly far enough into hostile territory to launch long-range weapons, according to Navy officials. The service foresees a complementary relationship between the Super Hornet and the stealthy F-35C . The Lightning II would provide targeting data from deep in enemy territory.

Boeing announced on Feb. 18, 2014, that the Navy had recently tested a new infrared search-and-track (IRST) sensor on an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter. The system would allow the fighter to locate and engage targets in conditions where the radar might not be available. The IRST was scheduled to be deployed by 2017.

Boeing was awarded a US$17.8 million delivery order on Jan. 22, 2014, for the F/A-18A-F depot level service life extension program, including maintenance and remanufacturing work. Work was scheduled to be completed in September 2014.

Aviation Week & Space Technology for Feb. 17, 2014, reported that a Boeing-led industry team planned to demonstration a multi-platform, multi-spectral fusion technique that would permit Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers to detect, track, identify and strike enemy aircraft from long ranges with minimal or no reliance on active radar. The goal is to make the jets less detectable and reduce or eliminate the effect of hostile jamming. The trials would build on an air-to-surface targeting demonstration conducted in the summer of 2013. The testing was to involve Super Hornets and Growlers carrying the IRST21 infrared search-and-track system; the APG-79 radar and ALR-67 radar warning receiver on the Super Hornet ; and the Growler 's ALQ-218 electronic surveillance measures system. An E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft and its APY-9 radar would also take part.

According to Aviation Week, the aircraft would also be equipped with the Harris distributed targeting processor (standard on the latest Super Hornets), which significantly improves processing speed and power, as well as terminals dedicated to the Rockwell Collins Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) waveform. The latter is designed to provide low latency and high data rates along with self-forming and self-repairing networks. The new processor will be equipped with a Boeing-developed "fusion-kernel" algorithm, which combines inputs from the various passive sensors and can coordinate active sensors. The fusion algorithm can compare time-difference-of-arrival (TDOA) target location in two dimensions with the IRST, which is very accurate in elevation and azimuth, but uses a less precise angle-rate measurement to determine range. The IRST can also be used to maintain a track between revisits by the APY-9 radar. Multi-platform tracking can complicate hostile tracking and jamming, officials said. Super Hornets and Growlers could use their APG-79 radars in sequence for example, or multiple EA-18Gs could perform cooperative jamming. Targeting across multiple spectra -- wideband radio frequency with the ALQ-218; UHF-band APY-9; X-band APG-79 ; and IRST -- challenges both hostile electronic warfare and signature reduction, said the magazine.

On May 1, 2014, Harris Corp. announced that it had received a two-year, $19 million full-rate production contract for the Distributed Targeting System for Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The system would significantly improve the aircraft's networking capabilities and targeting precision as well as shorten the time between target detection and launching a weapon, the company said.

The Naval Air Systems Command announced on June 30, 2014, that it had awarded Boeing a contract for 44 F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft over the following two years. The deal covered 11 Lot 38 F/A-18E aircraft and 33 EA-18Gs, including 12 for Australia, according to a Pentagon release. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2016.

Aviation Week & Space Technology for June 30, 2014, reported that the Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies (MAGIC CARPET) system would be integrated with F/A-18E/F Super Hornet , EA-18G Growler and F-35C Lightning II aircraft. Simulator testing showed that the system would reduce pilot workload to "minimal" levels. MAGIC CARPET was installed and tested without any hardware changes, the magazine said. The system allows the pilot to engage a "Delta Path" law once the aircraft is on its glide slope to the carrier. The flight-control system commands a reference flightpath, in combination with pilot-entered ship speed, which corresponds to an optical signal from the carrier. The aircraft will automatically follow the path, with the pilot correcting for any diversions.

A major difference in a MAGIC CARPET approach is that the flaps are not fully deflected and the flight-control system uses them to add or reduce lift. Should the aircraft fall below the glide slope, the pilot still pulls the stick back, but the control system deflects the flaps downward, reducing the descent rate at a constant alpha. Once the glide slope is regained, MAGIC CARPET uses the flaps to readjust the vertical speed. A second function helps pilots fly through the turbulent air behind a moving carrier. The inertial reference system and attitude sensors can be used to provide micro-corrections before the pilot can react, responding to a 0.1 g departure in about 0.4 seconds.

Simulation and flight testing showed that pilots with the MAGIC CARPET system land more consistently and with less variability than those using conventional controls. The improvements are sustained in turbulence and high sea states. The system could reduce the number of field carrier landing practice approaches that are needed to requalify pilots, reducing both direct flight-hour costs and consumption of airframe life, according to the Office of Naval Research. The ONR estimates that the MAGIC CARPET could save the Navy about US$1 billion annually. Plans called for making the system available on Super Hornets and Growlers in 2018.

Flight International for July 1, 2014, reported that Boeing was developing a concept that would combine the Super Hornet with the electronic signal detection capabilities of the EA-18G Growler . The resulting aircraft would resemble a Growler that lacks the ALQ-99 jamming pods, but retains the ALW-218 electronic receiver. Growth capabilities would include a long-range infrared search-and-track sensor and new air-to-air tracking modes.

General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems announced on Sept. 18, 2014, that it had received a $16.2 million U.S. Navy contract to produce Type 3 advanced mission computers for F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft. The deal covered systems for the U.S. Navy and Australia. The ruggedized, high-performance computers process high-speed data rates from aircraft sensors and conducts general-purpose, input/output, video, voice and graphics processing. Work under the contract was to be completed by March 2016.


The Jan. 19, 2016, issue of Flight International reported that the U.S. Navy had completed in-flight load-testing of the Lockheed Martin Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM ) on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet . Noise and vibration trials were scheduled to begin in late January 2016. First weapons release was anticipated in early 2017. An early operational capability on the Super Hornet was planned for 2019.

Jane's Defence Weekly for Feb. 2, 2016, reported that the Navy intended to launch a service life-extension program (SLEP) for its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. A notice published by the Naval Air Systems Command called for Boeing to extend the service life of the jets from the existing 6,000 flight hours. No details were provided as to the number of aircraft involved, extent of the increase in service life, timelines or contract values. The earliest Super Hornets to enter Navy service were expected to reach the end of their 6,000-flight-hour lives around 2017, which was two years ahead of the planned initial operational capability for the F-35C Lightning II .

On Feb. 17, 2016, Strike Fighter Squadron 113 (VFA-113) at NAS Lemoore flew its final F/A-18C Hornet mission. The unit began its transition to the F/A-18E Super Hornet the following month, reported Combat Aircraft for May 2016. VFA-113 was the last fighter squadron at Lemoore to make the move to the Super Hornet .

The U.S. Navy's Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 (VX -31) validated new software configuration sets for F/A-18 and EA-18G aircraft at the Point Mugu Sea Range, Calif., from April 18 to April 29, 2016. The squadron validated two separate software configuration sets: 27C for F/A-18A-D Hornets and H12 for F/A-18F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. H12 added more than 35 capabilities, including a complete redesign of the way information is displayed to pilots, said squadron officials.

Flight International reported on May 11, 2016, that Boeing had revealed a scaled-back version of its Advanced Super Hornet concept, which had fewer stealth features in an effort to increase Navy interest. The new design would be mostly common between the Super Hornet and Growler and provide a mix of new capabilities and upgrades, such as the IRST21 sensor, mounted on the centerline fuel tank; integrated defensive electronic countermeasures (IDECM) Block IV; APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar; and the next-generation jammer already being introduced as part of other programs. Upgrades that had not yet been selected by the Pentagon included an enhanced engine; conformal fuel tanks; and an open architecture cockpit with a 19-in (480-mm) wide-area display. At the time, the Navy had ordered 568 Super Hornets and was considering whether to buy more. Service officials told Congress that they needed 24-36 more Super Hornets to fill a gap caused by delays in the F-35C program. Boeing was also preparing to launch a service life-extension program to extend the operational life of the Super Hornet from 6,000 flight hours to 9,000. The first Super Hornet was expected to be inducted for overhaul later in 2016.

On May 16, 2016, National Defense magazine reported that Boeing was negotiating with the U.S. Navy over a potential multi-billion dollar service life-extension program (SLEP) for more than 580 Super Hornets over several years. Details of the modernization were still being finalized, said Boeing officials. The company anticipated upgrading 40 to 60 jets annually once the program got going. The work was expected to extend the service life of the jets from 6,000 to 9,000 flight hours. Boeing also expected to offer more expensive upgrades for the Super Hornet as fighters move through the SLEP, including more advanced sensors and conformal fuel tanks. (Some of the Advanced Super Hornet options covered in "Variants," below, would likely be offered.) Company officials said it would be cheaper to do the upgrades while the aircraft are undergoing depot maintenance rather than adding new features later. Boeing wanted to finalize a deal in the near future so that work could begin in 2017.

Scout Warrior reported on July 12, 2016, that the U.S. Navy was equipping its Super Hornets with a new real-time sensor video data link that would improve the ability of the fighter to network and attack targets from greater ranges. The advanced targeting forward-looking infrared (ATFLIR ) system uses electro-optical and infrared cameras with powerful laser technology, enabling pilots to rapidly identify and attack targets with a wider and longer-range engagement envelope. The ATFLIR can locate and designate targets day or night at ranges of more than 40 nm (74 km) and altitudes of higher than 50,000 ft (15,240 m), according to Raytheon. Around 170 Block II Super Hornets would also be equipped with an advanced infrared sensor designed to locate aerial targets in a high-threat electronic countermeasures environment.

On July 28, 2016, Boeing received a US$41.4 million contract for 80 advanced capability mission computers and associated non-recurring engineering in support of the Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler fleets for the U.S. Navy and Australia. The deal combined purchases for the U.S. Navy (US$22.7 million; 54.91 percent) and Australia (US$18.7 million; 45.09 percent) under the Foreign Military Sales program. Work was to be completed by August 2018.

The Pensacola News Journal (Fla.) reported on Aug. 1, 2016, that the U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team had begun making the transition to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet under a recent contract with Boeing. The company was providing engineering for the necessary modifications to the Super Hornets for the aerobatic team. The US$12 million contract was expected to be completed by September 2017. Customizations for the Blue Angels aircraft included a spring-loaded flight stick, which permits the pilots to maneuver the jets within 18 in (0.46 m) of each other.

Defense News reported on Sept. 28, 2016, that Washington had approved a long-awaited sale of up to 40 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for Kuwait. The package reportedly consisted of a request for 28 jets with options for 12 more. If all options are exercised, it would be worth US$3 billion. The sale had been stalled over concerns about Israel's security. The deal was allowed to proceed after the White House approved a 10-year, US$38 billion military aid package with Israel, said Boeing officials. If finalized, the deal would extend the Super Hornet production line into the early 2020s.

Combat Aircraft for October 2016 reported that the U.S. Navy's Super Hornet fleet had then flown about 44 percent of its design life of 6,000 flight hours. The remaining design service life would not be sufficient to meet operational needs through the 2040s. The first Super Hornet was expected to reach the end of its design life some time in 2017, according to Boeing. The Navy planned to send two "learning planes" to Boeing before the end of 2016 to give the company an opportunity to evaluate the corrosion and general status of the jets. Boeing officials estimated that it would take 18 months to take apart and evaluate the condition of the jets, but that the work would likely yield significant time and cost-savings during the eventual service life-extension program. A flight-control surfaces replacement program was anticipated as part of the program.

The Royal Australian Air force announced on Nov. 15, 2016, that its Super Hornets had completed their first major upgrade. The work was the first phase of the Super Hornet Spiral Upgrade Program involving incremental capability improvements. The 12-month Increment 1 program covered the aircraft training system, hardware and software. The latter included the installation of navigation warfare to provide GPS navigation protection; a distributed targeting system to enable precision targeting and an upgraded solid-state recorder for the cockpit, the RAAF said. Five separate structural modification to improve fatigue life and eliminate hazards were also incorporated.

On Nov. 17, 2016, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency reported that Kuwait had requested the sale of 40 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and associated equipment. The proposed US$10.1 billion deal covered 32 F/A-18E Super Hornets with F414-GE-400 engines; eight F/A-18F Super Hornets with F414 engines; eight spare F414 engines and 24 engine modules; 41 AN/APG-79 AESA radars; 44 M61A2 20-mm gun systems; 45 AN/ALR-67 (V)3 radar warning receivers; 240 LAU-127E/A guided-missile launchers; and 45 AN/ALE-47 countermeasure dispensers.

The proposal also included 12 AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods; 48 joint helmet-mounted cueing systems; 45 AN/ALQ-214 radio frequency countermeasure systems; 45 AN/ALE-55 towed decoys; 48 Link 16 data links; eight conformal fuel tanks; 14 AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR systems; ARC-210 radios; AN/AVS-9 night-vision goggles; and associated equipment, technical and logistics support.

The Kuwaiti Super Hornets would augment and eventually replace its fleet of 39 F/A-18C/D Hornets. The notification represented the total number of aircraft approved. Kuwait may not buy all 40 aircraft, noted Jane's Defence Weekly. The order would extend Boeing's Super Hornet production line into the 2020s, reported Defense News.


On Feb. 14, 2018, the Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing a US$219.6 million contract for the design, development, test and integration of a conformal fuel tank for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet . Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed by July 2022. The new conformal tanks can hold 515 gal (1,949 liters) of fuel in a low-drag configuration, an increase from the existing 480-gal (1,817 liter) tanks, reported the Navy Times. The new tanks will sit on top of the wing on either side of the aircraft dorsal, according to NAVAIR. Super Hornets will begin rolling off the production line with the new tanks in fiscal 2021, while upgrades of existing jets will start in fiscal 2023, said the command. The larger fuel tanks will give the jets greater range and allow carriers to operate farther from potential threats, noted the Navy Times.

Boeing received a US$73 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract on Feb. 28, 2018, for service-life modernization for four F/A-18E/F aircraft to extend their operational life from 6,000 to 9,000 hours. Work was scheduled to be completed in April 2020.

Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on March 22, 2018, that Boeing was preparing to launch a major project to upgrade the U.S. Navy's carrier air wing to the Super Hornet Block III. The next-generation version features new sensors, extended range, more powerful computer and enhanced stealth coating to enable the jet to operate alongside the F-35C into the 2040s and beyond, according to Boeing officials.

Navy plans called for procuring Block III jets in fiscal 2019 with 24 aircraft. The first would roll off the production line in 2020. The service has proposed buying 110 additional Super Hornets over the following five years, including a three-year procurement. At the same time, the Navy would accelerate the retirement of F/A-18 Hornets, with the last active-duty squadron making the transition to the Super Hornet in 2018. The last of the legacy Hornets is to be retired no later than fiscal 2030, the magazine said.

Boeing plans to deliver one Block III squadron per carrier air wing by 2024 and two squadrons per air wing by 2027, officials said. This is to be achieved by building new aircraft and upgrading existing jets to the Block III configuration during depot work. Service life modification work on Block II aircraft was set to begin in April 2018. The modification will initially focus on extending airframe life from 6,000 flight hours to 9,000 flight hours, followed by maintainability improvements, including grooming wire, fixing corrosion and replacing ducts. Boeing was also working with the Navy on a "rest" of the Super Hornet 's environmental control system following a series of hypoxia-like physiological events among pilots.

In the early 2020s, the service life modification would expand to include the full conversion to Block III. This involves low-observability improvements; an advanced cockpit system with large-area display for improved user interface; more powerful distributed targeting processor network; Tactical Targeting Network Technology; and conformal fuel tanks. The latter will extend the fighter's range by 100-120 nm (185-220 km) and are designed to replace external fuel tanks, reducing weight and drag and enabling additional payload to be carried. A long-range IRST sensor will also be integrated. Conversion is expected to take 18 months, with Boeing hoping to reduce that to 12 months over time.

On March 30, 2018, Boeing finalized a contract with Kuwait for 28 Super Hornets. The deal, potentially worth up to US$1.2 billion, covers 22 single-seat F/A-18E and six two-seat F/A-18F jets. The initial US$275.9 million contract covered long-lead non-recurring engineering costs, including radar warning receivers and aircraft armament equipment, reported Defense News. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in September 2022, reported the Dept. of Defense.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded General Electric, Lynn, Mass., a US$91.6 million contract modification on April 3, 2018, exercising an option for 24 Lot 22 full-rate production F414-GE-400 engines in support of Super Hornet production. Work was scheduled to be completed in February 2019.

The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., awarded Boeing a US$1.5 billion contract on June 14, 2018, for system configuration sets and services in support of lifecycle upgrades for F/A-18A-D, F/A-18E/F and EA-18G aircraft for the Navy and Foreign Military Sales program customers. Work was scheduled to be completed in June 2023.

The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., awarded Boeing a contract worth up to US$179 million on June 15, 2018, for system set H12K for Kuwait-configured F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter software development, modification, integration, testing and support. Work was scheduled to be completed in September 2022.

On Aug. 13, 2018, Boeing received a US$17 million Naval Air Systems Command contract for retrofit documentation and kits to convert nine F/A-18E and two F/A-18F fighters into the Blue Angel aerobatic jet configuration. Work was scheduled to be completed in December 2021.

Defense News reported on Aug. 16, 2018, that the Navy was making progress in restoring the readiness of its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters. In 2017, only one in three aircraft were able to deploy. As of August 2018, nearly half of the 546 Super Hornets were considered mission capable. The service had been focusing on aircraft that had been down for some time, according to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. The Navy began 2018 with 241 fully mission capable Super Hornets, which had increased to 270, he said. Increased budgets over the previous two years and new time-saving processes contributed to the improvements, the secretary said.

The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing a US$17.9 million contract modification on Sept. 25, 2018, to incorporate the "Secondary Bleed Air Regulator and Shut Off Valve Improvement" engineering change proposal in support of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler initiative to eliminate physiological problems. The change would improve aircraft reliability through the procurement of recurring kits for the secondary bleed air regulator and shut off valve. Work was scheduled to be completed in January 2021.


Boeing announced on Jan. 15, 2020, that the U.S. Navy had for the first time flown an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet equipped with an IRST Block II pod. The pod is a significant component of the Super Hornet Block III, the company said. The IRST Block II gives the fighter improved optics and processing power, improving pilot situational awareness, said Boeing officials. The pod was in the risk-reduction phase of development, with test flights allowing Boeing and the Navy to gather data on the system ahead of fielding. The Block II pod was scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2021.

On Jan. 21, 2020, the first F/A-18E/F to complete its Service Life Modification (SLM) was delivered to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106). The aircraft completed a functional flight check within three business days of arrival, noted the  Naval Air Systems Command. The SLM extended the service life of the jet from 6,000  to 7,500 hours. Beginning in December 2022, SLM kits would reach full maturity, extending service life to 10,000 flight hours and incorporating Block III capabilities, including enhanced network capability, reduced radar cross-section and enhanced communication systems. The program was launched in 2018 and was expected to run for more than 20 years. The schedule of inductions would increase over the next few years until a full rate of 40 annual inductions was reached. The current turnaround time of 18 months was expected to fall to 12 months by fiscal 2023. Boeing said it would deliver the second SLM-upgraded Super Hornet by the end of February 2020, with the third to be handed over in April 2020.

The final Block II Super Hornet for the U.S. Navy was delivered on April 17, 2020, and went straight from the Boeing factory to VFA-34 at NAS Oceana, Va., reported the Naval Air Systems Command. The handover completed the production of 322 F/A-18E and 286 F/A-18F jets for the Navy. Delivery of the first two Block III test jets to the Navy was slated to take place in the following two months. Production would then focus on 24 Super Hornet Block IIIs for Kuwait. The Navy had ordered 72 Block III jets in March 2019 for procurement from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2021, the command said.


U.S. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing a contract worth about US$40 million on June 8, 2022, for anti-surface warfare sensors for Australian and U.S. Navy Super Hornet and Growler jets, reported Flight Global. Under the deal, Boeing would supply 63 Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) kits and 56 DTP-N A1 kits as well as cybersecurity data support. The DTP-N system, produced by L3Harris Technologies, is a data- and signal-processing computer that enables real-time communication between onboard and external data systems. It allows linked systems to collect and share intelligence products such as still imagery and streaming video. The system will support anti-surface warfare capabilities on the Super Hornet and Growler, according to the Dept. of Defense. Work under the contract was scheduled to be completed in September 2024.

General Electric received a US$112 million NAVAIR contract modification on June 30, 2022, for 24 Lot 26 full-rate production F414-GE-400 engines and equipment in support of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet production, reported the Dept. of Defense. Work was scheduled to be completed in February 2024.

Northrop Grumman reported on Sept. 7, 2022, that the Litening pod had completed its initial test flights onboard an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. In early 2022, the Navy chose the Litening pod to replace its legacy targeting pods on its Super Hornet fleet. The pod's digital video, autonomous target tracking and laser sensors would give Navy pilots a new set of capabilities, said company officials. During the test flights, pilots performed maneuvers and operations representative of combat missions, including ground moving target tracking, air-to-air target tracking and target designation. They also used the eyesafe training mode for realistic training with combat controllers on the ground. At the time, Northrop Grumman said it had delivered more than 900 Litening pods.


Janes reported on March 22, 2024, that the U.S. Navy awarded a US$1.1 billion contract to Boeing for 17 new F/A-18E/F Block III Super Hornets. The order comprises five single-seat E models and 12 two-seat F models, with deliveries set to start in late 2026 and continue through early 2027. The contract included Phase One of the technical data package, enabling the Navy to sustain the aircraft independently. This move underscores the Navy's emphasis on maintaining operational readiness and post-production sustainment. The procurement also extends the life of Boeing's F/A-18 line in St. Louis, Missouri, which was slated to close in 2025.

The Dept. of Defense reported on May 1, 2024, that the Navy awarded Boeing a US$457.7 million contract modification to continue upgrading the F/A-18 Block II Super Hornets. This modification extends the aircraft's service life from 6,000 to 10,000 flight hours and incorporates new Block III avionics for 29 F/A-18 Block II Super Hornets. Work was expected to be completed by June 2026.

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