By Bijan Razzaghi
The new F/A-18E/F Block III upgrade will bring most of the capabilities offered by the F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet which took its maiden flight in 2013. This project has been looked at as a possible option to extend the service life of the existing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets that have been operational since 2000. The Super Hornet itself is considered a 4.5 generation fighter utilizing some of the latest avionics such as the AN/APG-79 AESA radar.
The Block III Super Hornet offers con-formal fuel tanks to extend the aircraft’s range without compromising the maneuverability and RCS signature as well as a IRST sensor to detect aircraft’s heat signatures at long ranges. The biggist innovation that the Block III Super Hornet adds is the Enclosed Weapons Pod. The Pod allows the aircraft to deploy up to two AMRAAMs or a single JDAM while reducing the aircrafts radar signature. The Pod will also likely be cleared to deploy the AGM-154 JSOW and SDB munitions. It is possible that the navy will adopt this configuration to reduce the Super Hornets survivability.
Boeing has also mentioned upgrading both the Super Hornet with sensor fusion. This function will combine the aircrafts radar, RWR and ECM together onto one display giving the pilot improved situational awareness. This near 5th generation capability can improve the pilots situational awareness.
So far the US Navy has decided to adopt this upgrade for the Super Hornet to compliment the existing F-35C. The F-35C will offer situational awareness with their synthetic aperture radar and data sharing for the Super Hornets. At the same time Super Hornets with their conformal fuel tanks will offer enhanced range. The two seat configuration of the Super Hornet also offers the aircraft to operate as a FAC and direct single seat F-35Cs to their targets.
The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is an already proven design, by upgrading it with fifth generation avionics and sensors will provide the Navy with a valuable asset.