F/A-18E/F/G Super Hornet
Boeing [BA] and Northrop Grumman [NOC] produce the F/A-18-series strike fighters in service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, as well as eight other nations including Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland.
The F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, now in service with the U.S. Navy, were developed as day/night strike fighters improving on the F/A-18C/D patternsÃ range, endurance and payload characteristics. The Super Hornet design, though superficially similar to antecedents in the F/A-18 line, has a lengthened fuselage, larger wing and is capable of carrying a third more fuel than earlier versions: the Navy reports 41 percent improvement to mission range, as well as 50 percent greater endurance. Super Hornet has two extra weapons hard-points. With two General Electric [GE] F414 turbo-fan engines providing more than 44,000 pounds of thrust, one of the Super HornetÃs most attractive features to the U.S. Navy is its ability to bring costly ordnance and fuel stores back to the host ship, rather than jettisoning prior to landing. The Super HornetÃs "carrier recovery payload" is 9,000 pounds. Equipped with refueling pods, the Super Hornet is also capable of replacing the venerable Grumman S-3 Viking in recovery tanking missions. Raytheon [RTN] is developing the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which is to be deployed beginning with Lot 27 Super Hornets in 2004.
The F/A-18E made its maiden deployment in summer 2002 aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72); strike fighter squadron VFA-115, the Eagles, deployed to the Persian Gulf area with Carrier Air Wing 14. The F/A-18E saw its first combat action in November 2002, releasing Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS-assisted weapons against two Iraqi surface-to-air missile systems and a command and control communications facility, as part of Operation Southern Watch. The Navy this month deployed USS Nimitz (CVN-68), the first Nimitz-class aircraft carrier without a squadron of Grumman F-14 Tomcat fighters aboard, undertaking the maiden voyage for the F/A-18F two-seat Super Hornets of VFA-41Ãs Black Aces. The F/A-18F is to replace the F-14, which is to be retired by 2005. Nimitz also carries VFA-14Ãs Tophatters, equipped with the single-seat E-model.
While Boeing and the Navy are interested in building a customer base for the Super Hornet, no other nations have agreed to buy the new aircraft. Boeing demonstrated the F/A-18F model during the 2002 Asian Aerospace Show in Singapore.
The Navy had planned to buy a minimum of 548 Super Hornets at a production rate of 48 aircraft per year. However, in the FY Ã04 PresidentÃs Budget request the service outlined its intent to seek a five-year multi-year contract for Super Hornet at a rate of 42 jets per year, with a total buy of F/A-18E/F/G models reduced by 88 aircraft. The revised numbers reflect the consolidation of Navy and Marine Corps air wings as well as the planned purchase of Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) for both services. The Navy and Marine Corps "tactical aviation integration plan" would also reduce the overall quantity of JSFs by 409 aircraft. Beginning in FY Ã05, the Navy plans to acquire 56 F/A-18G electronic warfare (EW) Super Hornet, equipped with the Improved Capability III (ICAP III) EW hardware associated with the Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowlers now in service.