The first Boeing F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet test aircraft has rolled out of the final assembly line, the company announced on Twitter.
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 flight tests from aircraft carriers.
The first #FA18 Block III #SuperHornet test jet has rolled out of final assembly. Two of these test jets will head to the @USNavy, where they’ll help pilots familiarize themselves with the updated jets and be used in carrier flight tests. pic.twitter.com/ojmn7Uy4Z0
— Boeing Defense (@BoeingDefense) May 8, 2020
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.
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.
In March 2019, Boeing received a three-year contract award from the Navy for 78 F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet fighter aircraft.
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.