Super Hornet is still alive, stronger than ever

Boeing is offering Super Hornet Block III to Finland, Switzerland, Kuwait, India and Canada.

Boeing Super Hornet Block III
Boeing Super Hornet Block III.

Like the best fourth-generation combat aircraft, Boeing's Super Hornet is now experiencing its second youth. The agreements finalized by the US aerospace giant with the US Navy to produce 78 new Super Hornet Block III aircraft and upgrade the current fleet to the new standard have confirmed the confidence that the Navy has in the type and keeps the production lines active for another 15 years.

The Block III brings together a range of new capabilities and upgrades that makes the aircraft a considerable advance over its predecessors, not least of which is an airframe life extension from 6,000 to 10,000 hours. It provides for the addition of conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that add around 120 nm more range. CFTs are to be part of Block III new production from the outset, as is an advanced cockpit station with a 10- by 19-inch wide-area touchscreen display. Satellite communications are also installed, along with an advanced tactical datalink. A long-wave infrared search and track sensor is added to permit passive engagements and to augment the e-scan radar.
Boeing Super Hornet Block III.

Boeing is currently offering the advanced Super Hornet to five countries to meet a total requirement of over 300 aircraft. Two of these competitions are taking place in Europe and have been launched by Finland and Switzerland. Elsewhere the Super Hornet is competing in Kuwait, India and Canada.

Although the Super Hornet has struggled a lot to win the hearts of aviation enthusiasts as it has had the hard task of replacing the legendary F-14 Tomcat, it boasts features superior to the latter.

During our last visit to the USS Bush aircraft carrier, Commanding Officer CAPT Will Pennington who has more than 3,500 flight hours in the F-14 and FA-18 fighter jets, told us about the Super Hornet's great capabilities.

"It's fantastic to fly the Super Hornet, the F-14 was big, fast, carried a lot of fuel, had a great range and was very useful, but the F-18 is more relaible, easy and flexible; it is more ergonomic and has the GPS map," he said.

The latest international customers to have chosen the Super Hornet are Kuwait and Germany. The first signed a contract worth 1.5 billion dollars for the purchase of 28 aircraft in June 2018, while the second announced in April 2020 its intention to purchase thirty F/A-18F Super Hornets and fifteen EA-18G Growlers to replace part of the Luftwaffe's Tornado fleet.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Boeing, US Navy

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