Officials of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., are asking the Boeing Defense, Space & Security segment in St. Louis to build 61 single-seat F/A-18E and 17 two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornets under terms of this five-year contract.
The twin-engine carrier-capable multirole fighter and light-attack F/A-18E/F combat jets and their avionics are based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, which entered U.S. Navy squadrons in 1983, but are larger and more advanced derivatives. The F/A-18E/F has a larger wing and a longer fuselage to carry more fuel and more powerful engines.
The Block III configuration adds enhanced network capability, longer range, reduced radar signature, an advanced cockpit system, and enhanced communications system. Boeing will begin converting existing Block II Super Hornets to Block III early in the next decade. The fighter’s life also will be extended from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours, Boeing officials say.
The F/A-18E/F combat aircraft first flew in 1995, and entered Navy service in 1999. These aircraft replaced variants of the Navy's F-14 Tomcat jet fighters, A-6 Intruder medium-attack bombers, and S-3 Viking carrier-based maritime patrol jets.
The Super Hornet has an internal 20-millimeter M61 rotary cannon and can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons. The planes can carry additional fuel in as many as five external fuel tanks. These jets also can function as airborne tankers with external air refueling systems.
The planes have improved active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, large displays, the joint helmet mounted cuing system, and several other avionics enhancements.
The Super Hornet has a modern mission computer, and infrared search and track (IRST) electro-optical passive surveillance and targeting system.
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