The US Navy have taken delivery of the final Block II Super Hornet, closing out a run of 322 one-seater F/A-18Es and 286 two-seated F/A-18Fs.
“Aircraft E322 will leave Boeing’s production line and head straight to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 based in [Naval Air Station] Oceana,” explained Cmdr. Tyler Tennille, of Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) in a news release from the service.
“When the Super Hornets first came online, they were a game changer,” he explained, pointing to the Block II’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar as well as larger displays, upgraded sensors and avionics, and increased range and capability to employ an arsenal of precision weapons that delivered advanced lethality and mission flexibility for the service.
According to Boeing:
“The robust airframe was built with an open mission systems architecture, which has enabled easy integration of new weapons and technologies. The Block II Super Hornet serves as the Navy’s responsive aircraft, fully capable across the full mission spectrum which includes: air superiority, fighter escort, reconnaissance, aerial refueling, close air support, air defense suppression, and day/night precision strike.
This aircraft has stood strong as the backbone of the Navy’s carrier air wing, and has proven itself repeatedly during numerous operations where it has been the preeminent platform performing multiple missions, sometimes rapidly reconfiguring on the fly. Even though it is substantially larger – roughly 7,000 pounds heavier and a 50 percent higher range, the Super Hornet delivered with fewer parts and lower maintenance demands than its predecessor, the Hornet.”
It is understood that the U.S. Navy will procure 72 Block III Super Hornet aircraft between fiscal years 2019 and 2021. Boeing is expected to deliver the Block III test jets to the US Navy as early as late spring, where subsequent testing will commence at both NAS Patuxent River and Naval Air Weapons System China Lake.
This latest version of the Super Hornet includes an advanced cockpit system; advanced network infrastructure; reduced radar cross-section; and a 10,000-flight hour lifespan.