Video: Boeing Wins US Navy Contract to Develop CFT for Super Hornet

The U.S. Navy's Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded Boeing a contract for the design, development, test and integration of the conformal fuel tanks (CFT) for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Boeing FA 18 Super Hornet CFT Block III Sea Air Space 2017 Scale model of the Block III Super Hornet at Sea Air Space 2017. Note the CFTs on top of the aircraft.

Plans of CFTs for the Super Hornet first surfaced last year: At the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space 2017 exposition held last year, Boeing unveiled the Block III variant of its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The Block III Super Hornet consists in a series of upgrades for the existing Block II aircraft. These upgrades (a Boeing representative at the show identified five of them) would bring more capabilities to the affordable and combat proven Super Hornet (as well as to the EA-18G Growler):

Our video coverage on the Block III Super Hornet at SAS 2017.

1 - Conformal fuel tanks:
The most visible upgrade is the conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) which would bring more range, more percistance and less drag to the aircraft. CFTs are additional fuel tanks fitted closely to the profile of an aircraft that extend either the range or "time on station" of the aircraft. CFTs have a reduced aerodynamic penalty compared to external drop tanks and they do not occupy ordnance hardpoints like drop tanks, allowing the aircraft to carry more payload. The combat range increase for the Block III is estimated to be about more or less 150 nautical miles compared to the use of legacy drop tanks.

 Scale model of the new Block III Super Hornet at Sea Air Space 2017. Note the IRST.

2 - Block II IRST
The IRST system consists of Lockheed Martin’s IRST21™ sensor, the GE Aviation FPU-13 Fuel Tank Assembly and the Meggitt Defense Industry Environmental Control unit. The system demonstrated its production readiness through a series of extensive assessments and reviews, including flight tests. Block I IRST is expected to deploy on the F/A-18 Super Hornet in 2017. In addition to detecting airborne threats, IRST significantly enhances multiple target resolution compared to radar, providing greater discrimination of threat formations at longer ranges. Data from the IRST21 sensor is fused with other on-board F/A-18 sensor data to provide maximum situational awareness to the warfighter.

 Detailed view: New satellite link/GPS antenna

3 - New computers and datalink
They would allow Block III Super Hornet to exchange large quantity of data with Growlers and E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes through the TTNT (Tactical Targeting Network Technology) network and fuze real time information.

 Detailed view: RCS improvements

4 - Radar Cross Section (RCS) improvements
Minor treatments to improve the low RCS levels of the aircraft. The mostly consist in a redesigned muzzle (in the nose of the aircraft) as well as improved angle of attack sensors (located on the sides of the nose).

 The new Advanced Cockpit System by Elbit Systems on display at Sea Air Space 2017.

5 - All glass advanced cockpit system
Designed by Elbit Systems USA, the ACS includes mission processors, a low-profile head-up display, and a large 10X19 inch HD display with touch screen and picture-in-picture capabilities, optimizing tactical situation displays, processing advanced applications, and providing high-definition formats for advanced sensor video presentations.

Talking to Navy Recognition at the show, a Boeing representative explained that Block III Super Hornet would become a smart node on the network fuzing a lot of information and bringing more range and firepower.

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