Latest Serial F / A-18E Block II
Not so long ago, Boeing completed the production and delivery of the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet Block II series fighter-bombers. Now the construction of aircraft of the new Block III version has been launched. The first vehicles of this series left the assembly shop a few days ago, and will soon begin service in one of the squadrons of the U.S. Navy. They will soon be followed by new ones.
The F / A-18E / F Block II project was created in the first half of the 2005s, and in 2 mass production started. The Boeing company regularly transferred new aircraft to the customer, but now their production has been stopped. The last car of the XNUMXnd series was handed over the fleet several weeks ago.
On April 17, an act was signed on the transfer of the F / A-18E aircraft with the serial number "E322", completing the Block II series. To date, the machine has been transferred to the 34th Marine Fighter Bomber Squadron aviation and getting ready for a full service.
One of the first Block III aircraft
From 2005 to 2020, the manufacturing company handed over to the Navy 322 single-seat aircraft F / A-18E and 286 double-seat aircraft F / A-18F. By the time production of the 2nd series was completed, Boeing and related companies had rebuilt production chains and began construction of the first fighters of the next modification.
In March 2019, the U.S. Navy and Boeing signed a contract for the construction and delivery of new F / A-18E / F aircraft of the new Block III series. The agreement provided for an early launch of production with the supply of equipment in 2020-2024. The Pentagon wants to get 78 aircraft of a new series. The bulk of the supply, 61 units, will be single-seat fighter F / A-18E. Double "F" ordered in the amount of 17 pieces.
The total cost of the contract is approx. 4 billion dollars. Thus, the average cost of a 3-series machine reaches 51,3 million dollars. For comparison, the production of F / A-18E / F Block II cost less than 50 million.
On May 8, Boeing removed the first two F / A-18F aircraft of the new series from the assembly shop. After testing, they will be handed over to the customer for commissioning and full operation. Acceptance will take place within two months.
Image F / A-18F from promotional materials
In parallel with the production of new Block III aircraft, existing Block IIs will be upgraded. Starting this year, the Navy plans to annually make orders for the repair and updating of fighters from the availability. Until 2033, all combatant aircraft of the previous series will undergo such modernization. This will increase the combat effectiveness of naval aviation without large costs for the construction of the required number of aircraft of the latest modification.
Features of the series
Modification of Block III is characterized by significant changes in the airframe, general aircraft systems and electronic equipment. The improvements are aimed at increasing the main tactical, technical and operational characteristics. Newly built aircraft will initially have all these qualities, and the former Block II will receive them according to the results of a major overhaul.
Due to improvements to the airframe and individual systems, the resource is increased from 6 to 10 thousand flight hours. A certain decrease in the effective scattering area is provided. Conformal tanks for 3500 pounds (1589 kg) of fuel are installed on top of the fuselage in addition to internal tanks of 6200 to 6600 pounds, which ensures increased flight range without noticeable deterioration in aerodynamics.
Key Features of Block III Upgrade
A deep modernization of the on-board electronics complex was carried out. The composition of avionics introduced new satellite communications devices. Improved networking features related to data exchange. The sighting and navigation complex got the opportunity to work with hanging infrared reconnaissance containers. Part of the available units is preserved, but with an increase in the basic characteristics. A "glass cabin" has been formed. Its basis is a 19x10 inch (482x254 mm) liquid crystal screen, which occupies most of the dashboard.
The combat load and the nomenclature of the weapons used have not changed, the F / A-18E / F version of Block 3 can carry the same weaponas Block II. At the same time, hanging containers, new means of communication and control, etc. simplify its use and increase overall combat qualities.
Takeoff and landing characteristics remained at the level of previous modifications and ensure full operation on aircraft carriers. Additional fuel allows you to increase the range and / or duration of flight, load, etc.
Between 2005 and 2020, Boeing and subcontractors built more than 600 F / A-18E / F Block II aircraft in two versions. Part of this technique has been lost or decommissioned in recent years. According to open sources, 540 aircraft of this type remain in service, of which approx. 400 units ready for use.
New cab equipment
In the new 3rd series, only two aircraft are ready so far. Now they are being tested and will only recover in the summer. After that, over the next few years it is expected to build several dozen cars - a total of 78 units.
In the foreseeable future, the share of Block III aircraft will gradually grow, both through the construction of new ones and through the modernization of Block II cash. The current plans of the Pentagon include the formation of a fleet of 618 aircraft of the latest modification, but it will take 12-13 years. As a result of these works, carrier-based aviation will remain without 2-series aircraft.
Airplanes for export
The main customer of the F / A-18 fighter-bomber of all modifications has always been the US Navy, however, a significant amount of such equipment was sent to foreign customers. The new version of Super Hornet is unlikely to be an exception.
The creation of the Block III project, namely, some of the modernization components, was partially paid by Kuwait. In March 2018, this country ordered 28 aircraft of two modifications: 22 single-seat “E” and 6 double-seat “F”. The contract provides for the construction of equipment that combines instrumentation and the capabilities of the "blocks" II and III. Implementation of the contract will begin shortly.
F / A-18E / F Block II aircraft on the deck of an aircraft carrier
Germany is considered as a potential customer. The Bundeswehr Air Force plans to abandon the obsolete Panavia Tornado aircraft, and American F / A-18E / F, including latest version of Block III. Boeing also participates in tenders for the Indian Air Force and Navy, but they are still far from complete, and their results are difficult to predict.
Thus, from the point of view of the manufacturing company, the F / A-18E / F Block III project is already successful. A major Pentagon production contract has been received and orders for modernization are expected. There is a foreign order for “hybrid” aircraft. Even if Germany or India did not want to buy airplanes, Boeing will not be left without profit.
Project Of Special Importance
It is well known that the carrier fleet and carrier-based aviation is one of the main tools of the US armed forces. Particular importance is attached to their development, and the results of this approach can be observed right now. Just a few days ago, tests began on a new series of carrier-based fighter-bombers, and in the near future they will begin serving in the Navy.
According to the plans of the Pentagon, by the mid-thirties the entire fleet of F / A-18E / F aircraft will correspond to the newest modification of Block III, which has significant advantages. This will improve the combat qualities of individual aircraft, aircraft carrier groups, the Navy and the armed forces as a whole. Thus, the recent rollout of a pair of production aircraft is a major event for both the customer and the manufacturer.