Update: Conformal Fuel Tank Retrofits
(Source: Forecast International; issued April 16, 2018)
Pioneered in service on the F-16, conformal fuel tanks are finding increasing favor as a relatively simple way of increasing fuel capacity and range without major airframe modifications, as on this future Super Hornet Block III. (Boeing image)
Boeing has recently been awarded a $219.6 million delivery order for the design, development, test and integration of the conformal fuel tank in support of the F/A-18. Work will be performed in various locations, and is expected to be completed in July 2022.

The F/A-18 and other legacy fighter platforms are currently undergoing multibillion-dollar international and U.S. upgrade programs.

Boeing offers the Advanced Super Hornet, an update of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Upgrades to the Advanced Super Hornet will be offered as new-builds or for retrofit. Many of the features are already being retrofitted onto the U.S. naval fleet. One of the Advanced Super Hornet upgrades is the shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tank. The conformal fuel tank can hold up to 3,500 pounds of fuel, for a range increase of 125 nautical miles.

Advanced Super Hornets are also upgraded with the following:

-- Infrared search and track
-- EW self-protection (not the full suite found on the Growler)
-- A new display
-- More capable computers and networking
-- AESA radar

Options

-- An enclosed weapons pod – cuts radar signature by up to 50 percent
-- An improved engine

The Typhoon, meanwhile, is undergoing a conformal fuel tank retrofit as part of its P4E upgrade program, and conformal fuel tanks are offered as part of Boeing’s very attractive F-15 2040C.

Finally, Robertson Fuel Systems offers a conformal fuel tank for BHI Squared Commercial Hawks, which are aftermarket commercial offerings of the UH-60 Black Hawk. The modification carries 100 gallons of additional fuel and increases the range of the commercial S-70 by 124 nautical miles. And Arista Aviation offers the Arista Hawk, which includes modifications such as auxiliary fuel tanks.

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