During three weeks of flight testing, Boeing and Northrop Grumman demonstrated improvements that make the jet much harder for radar to detect and give it significantly more combat range.
Through 21 flights that took place in St. Louis and Patuxent River, Md., the team tested conformal fuel tanks (CFT), an enclosed weapons pod (EWP), and signature enhancements each of which can be retrofitted on an existing Block II Super Hornet aircraft or included on a new jet.
Improvements to the aircraft’s radar signature including the enclosed pod resulted in a 50 percent reduction compared with the U.S. Navy’s stealth requirement for the current Super Hornet variant. The tests also showed that the CFTs increase the jet’s combat radius by up to 130 nautical miles, for a total radius of more than 700 nautical miles.
“Even though we added components to the aircraft, their stealthy, low-drag design will enhance the combat capability and survivability of the Super Hornet on an aircraft that has a combat-proven history launching and recovering from aircraft carriers,” said Mike Wallace, the Boeing F/A-18 test pilot who flew the Advanced Super Hornet configuration.
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The improvements will ensure that the Advanced Super Hornet outpaces enemy aircraft and defenses through 2030 and beyond.
The companies, along with Hornet Industry Team partners GE Aviation and Raytheon, are investing in new technologies for the Advanced Super Hornet, including internal Infrared Search and Track, an enhanced engine and a next-generation cockpit.
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