The first Boeing F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet test aircraft, F287, has conducted its first flight, the company announced on Twitter.
The company is expected to deliver the first two Block III Super Hornet test aircraft to the U.S. Navy in the coming weeks.
The first flight of the next generation of #F18. Watch F287 – the first #SuperHornet Block III test jet – take to the skies. We will deliver two Block III test jets to the @USNavy in the coming weeks. pic.twitter.com/C7jHV5H6e2
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) June 4, 2020
Boeing is expected to deliver the Block III test jets to the Navy as early as late spring, where subsequent testing will commence at both NAS Patuxent River and Naval Air Weapons System (NAWS) China Lake. The test aircraft will help Navy pilots familiarize themselves with the Block III enhancements and be used in flight tests from aircraft carriers.
The company has also announced that it will deliver operational Block III Super Hornet fighter jets next year,
In March 2019, Boeing received a three-year contract award from the Navy for 78 F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet fighter aircraft. The Block III configuration adds capability upgrades to the existing Block II aircraft that include enhanced network capability, longer range, reduced radar signature, an advanced cockpit system and an enhanced communication system.
The most visible upgrade is the conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) which would bring more range, more persistence and less drag to the aircraft.
The aircraft is equipped with a Block II IRST system consisting of Lockheed Martin’s IRST21 sensor, the GE Aviation FPU-13 Fuel Tank Assembly and the Meggitt Defense Industry Environmental Control unit. There is also minor structural treatment to decrease the Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the aircraft such as a redesigned muzzle as well as improved angle of attack sensors. The fighter’s life also will be extended from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours.
The U.S. Navy recently took delivery of the final Boeing F/A-18 Block II Super Hornet fighter aircraft, closing out a run of 322 one-seater F/A-18Es and 286 two-seater F/A-18Fs. From now on, all aircraft manufactured for the Navy will be in the Block III configuration.