F/A-18 Super Hornet: Combat Proven and Future Ready

Defence Industry

AS THE Indian Navy continues its evolution as a maritime force capable of operating globally, it will need a carrier borne fighter fleet that is not only combat proven, effective and mobile but one that is easy to maintain, with low operational costs. The future naval carrier borne fighter will also need to be compatible with current and upcoming aircraft carriers of the Indian Navy.

With multi-role capabilities, advanced technologies with room to grow as well as low acquisition and sustainment costs – the F/A-18 Super Hornet is the clear choice for India. With designed-in stealth, an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) and many other advanced technologies that are ideal for mission requirements of the naval aviator, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is the most advanced aircraft of its kind in operation today and will provide operational benefits to the existing and future force structure of the Indian armed forces.

F/A-18 Super Hornet – A Combat Proven Fighter and Backbone of the US Navy

Boeing’s Super Hornet is combat-proven and defined to meet the US Navy’s flight plan to outpace future threats. The Super Hornet will be on the US Navy’s carrier decks well into the 2040s – being ¾ of the US Navy’s strike fighter capacity into the 2030s and no less than half the carriers striking force into the 2040s.

In 2018, the United States included its annual budget, a requirement for 80 Super Hornets over the next five years, in order to address its strike fighter shortfall. The budget also incorporated upgrade to Block 3 capabilities, to ensure the US Navy’s air wing has the capabilities needed to win in the 2020s and beyond.

The next generation of Super Hornet aircraft for the US Navy (and potentially international customers) are designed to fulfill their role as the next-gen airplanes that complement the F-35. The two platforms are going to work together on the decks of the US Navy, well into the 2040s.

Why is the F/A-18 Super Hornet the World’s Preeminent Carrier Capable Aircraft?

The F/A-18 Super Hornet was designed from day one for carrier operations. Being a twin-engine aircraft the Super Hornet provides the war fighter a margin of safety that does not exist in a single-engine platform. Every Super Hornet has a buddy refueling capability that can extend time on station, range, and endurance. Additionally, the Super Hornet can provide close and deep air support through the AESA radar targeting data and reliable data links.

Ease of Maintenance

The F/A-18 Super Hornet not only has a low acquisition cost, but it costs less per flight hour to operate than any other tactical aircraft in US forces inventory. Part of its affordability is because the Super Hornet is designed to need far less maintenance; this translates into high mission availability. Ease of maintenance (supportability) results in lower maintenance man-hours per flight hour. The platform also does not require any scheduled depot-level maintenance and the engines do not require any scheduled maintenance between overhauls.

This low cost of operation, low maintenance requirements and twin-engine based survivability allow the Super Hornet to fly to and back from harsh environments.

Further, Boeing’s active production line and robust supply chain allow the company to offer the most affordable platform.

Prepared for Future Threats: F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet Capabilities

The Super Hornet is a platform that is continuously evolving to outpace future threats. Every two years Boeing and its industry partners along with the US Navy, work on delivering new capabilities to the fighter. Critical mission systems such as the radar, mission computers and sensors continue to evolve to match up to the mission profiles of the future.

To address the capabilities needed in the air wing as early as the 2020s, Boeing has developed the Block III Super Hornet to complement existing and future air wing capabilities. The Block III or the Advanced F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, has multi-mission capabilities that include battle-space situational awareness, counter stealth targeting, greater range and increased acceleration, improved survivability and reduced signature – all these advancements come with room for growth.

These advanced capabilities can be both built into new aircraft and incorporated into existing aircraft, allowing maximum ability to field these capabilities quickly and affordably. Key features of Block III Super Hornet include enhanced network capability, longer range with low-drag, stealthy conformal fuel tanks, long-range detection with Infrared Search and Track, enhanced situational awareness with a new Advanced Cockpit System, improved signature with low observable next generation radar cross section for increased survivability and 9,000+ hour life for reduced life cycle costs by incorporating design changes into production aircraft based on lessons learned from the Service Life Analysis Program.

A significant design evolution is the addition of Conformal Fuel Tanks. Mounted on the shoulder of the Block III, conformal fuel tanks extend the range of the Block III by 100 nautical miles. Conformal Fuel Tanks also free up the space occupied by a centerline drop-tank. This means that the Air Force and the Navy have an additional hard-point to carry more air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons.

Modern and next-generation aircraft have a large amount of data available through their sensors. The Super Hornet Block III comes equipped with Distributing Targeting Processor Network (DTP-N) and Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT). These big data platforms work together to aid in efficient movement and management of data within assets.

The Advanced Cockpit System is a next-generation use interface, which simplifies the interpretation and projection of a large quantity of information for the aircrew – both in the front and rear cockpit – making it easy to interface and manage an information network.

Even though the Super Hornet Block II is a stealth aircraft, Boeing has made a few signature improvements to reduce the Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the Block III to make it even stealthier.

The Block III Super Hornet will come online at the same time as the F-35. In the 2020s, three Super Hornet squadrons and one F-35 squadron may form the airwing of US carrier fleets. Currently, in the US Navy three out four, and in most cases all four squadrons based off aircraft carriers, are Super Hornet squadrons.