ARLINGTON, Va. --- They will be a little bit stealthier, pack a more powerful punch, fly with increased stamina and carry a more robust communication and targeting systems. That’s how Boeing officials talked up the benefits of the Block III F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as they prepare to start rolling off the production line next year.
In 2013 Boeing developed a plan that would make the Super Hornet 50-percent stealthier than its already-low-radar signature design, Boeing’s F-18 program manager Dan Gillian told reporters on Wednesday. But the Navy reportedly balked at the plan, explaining they don’t need Super Hornets to be extremely low observable – the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter accomplishes that – but rather they need an F-18 to stay on station longer, deliver more weapons and be better integrated into the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) system, Gillian said.
“The Navy’s carrier air wing doesn’t need us to be at F-35 level of stealth to perform the missions the carrier air wing has to do,” Gillian said. “They need us to improve our radar cross section and they need us to carry large amounts of ordinance far forward.” (Emphasis added—Ed.)
The end result, according to Boeing, is that the Block III Super Hornets are only slightly stealthier than Block II fighters but will have greater range and the ability to carry more weapons on a more robust airframe designed to last up to 9,000 flight hours – about a decade longer than the current airframes.
The jets will also have far superior data processing and communications capabilities than previous versions. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the USNI website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: As the Pentagon remains committed to the Lockheed F-35 program, the services must find ways to compensate its more serious operational shortcomings.
The Block III Super Hornet is one option for the US Navy to obtain the two capabilities which the F-35 cannot provide, and which are highlighted above: long range and heavy weapons load.
But, as noted by Military.com, a major interoperability problem remains: How will the [Super Hornet Block IIIs and F-35] jets connect and share information without sacrificing stealth?”
Furthermore, the House Armed Services Committee finally discovered, in its report on the NDAA, what has been clear for years: that “the F-35C could require increased range to address necessary targets.” The F-35C’s range cannot be extended, however, as there is no room for more internal fuel, and drop tanks would make it very visible by radar. (See related story by Ars Technica)
In other words, to reach its targets US Navy tactical aviation will need aircraft other than the F-35C, which it nonetheless continues to buy at huge cost for practically no operational return.
That is no way to run a navy.)