The Boeing Company recently released these photos of its Advanced Super Hornet testbed, along with video and other materials, and at least one published brief. The aircraft, a modified F/A-18F leased from the U.S. Navy, recently completed a first round of flight testing. In addition to other upgrades already part of Block II aircraft, such as the AN/APG-79 AESA radar, Advanced Crew Station, enhanced interconnectivity, and advanced mission computers and displays, the Advanced Super Hornet would add more powerful engines, reduced radar signature, Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT), an integral IRST, and an Enclosed Weapons Pod (EWP).
Boeing’s Advanced Super Hornet | Photos
The F/A-18E/F Advanced Super Hornet with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) and Enclosed Weapons Pod (EWP) pictured during its first flight. The Boeing approach in the Advanced Super Hornet is for a set of low risk, easily incorporated or retrofitted capabilities that allow the aircraft to keep pace with adversaries and defenses until at least 2030. Boeing photo by Senior Photographer Kevin Flynn The Advanced Super Hornet was developed in-house and self-funded by Boeing and Northrop Grumman, including leasing the F/A-18F from the Navy. Boeing photo by Photographer Richard Rau The F/A-18F test aircraft with CFTs mounted on top and the EWP hung beneath the aircraft centerline for flight testing. The CFTs and EWP are ballasted to represent actual operational weights, but are nonfunctional items to test aerodynamics, form, and fit. The aircraft is not fitted here with the IRST beneath the nose that is part of the proposal. Boeing photo by Senior Photographer Ron Bookout The CFTs on the Advanced Super Hornet would carry another 3500 pounds of fuel to supplement the Super Hornet's existing 14,950- pound internal fuel load. Boeing says this will add up to 130 nautical miles to its combat radius. They would be of particular benefit to the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, which would have the same mission performance with 3,000 pounds less fuel, and have an un-obscured field-of-regard for its jamming pods. Boeing photo by Senior Photographer Kevin Flynn Adding CFTs, according to a Boeing briefing document, would make the aircraft more stealthy and reduce the drag associated with external tanks. Fuel burn rates have been shown to be equal or superior to a clean aircraft in testing, suggesting drag of the CFTs is neutral or even superior to a clean aircraft. Boeing photo by Senior Photographer Kevin Flynn The non-functional EWP being flown is ballasted to weigh 2,050 pounds. According to Boeing and Northrop Grumman, an operational EWP would carry up to 2500 pounds of weapons, with a 900-pound empty weight. The pod could carry: One BLU-109 ER OR One 1,000-pound JDAM OR up to six SDBs and two AIM-120s OR four AIM-120s OR two 500-pound laser JDAMs and two AIM-120s. The stealthy EWP, in concert with CFTs would allow the Advanced Super Hornet to fly wings clean, turning the F/A-18E/F into a first-day-of-the-war striker. Boeing photo by Senior Photographer Ron Bookout Upgrades to the F414-GE-400, explored over the past decade by both General Electric and the Navy, could provide up to 20 percent more thrust, enhancing performance of the aircraft, as well as 3 percent lower fuel consumption, extending range. Boeing photo by Senior Photographer Ron Bookout Additional radar cross section improvements to the aircraft, along with the CFTs and EWP, contribute to a 50 percent lower radar signature, according to Boeing. Boeing photo by Senior Photographer Kevin Flynn