Boeing Touts 'Evolution' of Its Upgraded Fighters

Dubai Air Show » 2011
Boeing F/A-18E
Thanks to the latest multi-year buy by the U.S. Navy, production of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is assured through 2016.
November 12, 2011, 7:18 AM

Boeing Military Aircraft (BMA) has stepped up its campaign to sell more F-15 and F-18 fighters, and has issued a strong warning against overreliance on leading-edge platforms such as the F-35 Stealth Fighter

(produced by competitor Lockheed Martin). “The evolutionary approach is best…it’s hard to manage a revolution,” said Rick McCrary, BMA international business director.

McCrary advises customers to focus instead on tactics, techniques and procedures, and the effects that they wanted to create. The F-35 program was “going down the same path” as the B-2 and F-22 programs, McCrary claimed. He also pointed out that although both Russia and China are developing stealth fighters, the Su-30/35 series represented the real threat because they were being progressively upgraded and could be fielded in large numbers. In any case, Russia’s PAK-50 “is more like an Su-35 than an F-22,” according to his assessment.

Critics may say that Boeing’s argument is self-serving, but McCrary and colleagues believe that the upgrades already made or pending on the F-15 and F-18 prove their point. For instance, the tripling in radar range offered by active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs) provides a capability that McCrary likened to “having a rifle in a pistol fight.” New capabilities offered by the smaller transmit/receive modules on second- and third-generation AESAs had hardly been exploited. Various technologies (such as high off-boresight missiles, infrared search and track sensors, new digital electronic warfare systems and updated cockpits ensure that the F-15 and the F-18 (see below) are evolving to meet today’s challenges and provide the required effects, McCrary claimed. “We have a long-term, cost-effective plan,” he added.

Super Hornet’s Prospective Customers and Upgrade Plans

Thanks to the latest multi-year buy by the U.S. Navy, production of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is assured through 2016, at an average cost below $60 million in 2010 prices. In the Middle East region, Boeing is eyeing requirements in Kuwait (an existing operator of F/A-18C/Ds), Qatar and the UAE. All have received Super Hornet briefings from the U.S. government.
Further afield, Japan is likely to choose between the F/A-18E/F, the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon next month. Malaysia is another F/A-18D operator that might upgrade to the E/F. The “Super” is also competing for Brazil’s on-again, off-again new fighter requirement. Although it is an F-35 international partner, Denmark has not yet formally committed to the Lightning II, and will resume an evaluation of alternatives next month.
Boeing has described the following potential upgrades to the F/A-18E/F for future international sales:

  • conformal fuel tanks
  • 20 percent more thrust from the F414 engines
  • spherical missile/laser warning system
  • enclosed weapons pods on the wings and centerline
  • next-generation cockpit
  • internal IRST (infrared search and track sensors).

Share this...


No Avatar
Jason Simmons
on November 13, 2011 - 10:57am

If you're fine with operating only 65% of the capability of the F-35 at 95% of the price...

No Avatar
on November 13, 2011 - 11:31am

The basic design of a F-18 is nearly 40 years old and the things Boeing is doing is the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig as the aerial wars in the next decade will be against Russian PAK FA T-50 and Chinese J-20 stealth fighters; thus, in combat where life can mean the difference of a couple of seconds, the F-35 Lightning II gives US pilots the best chance of aerial superiority.

No Avatar
on November 14, 2011 - 1:59am

It's a viable proposition with radar-absorbing materials, body sculpting and with the latest electronics. F-35 has payload/range limitations if it ever deploys.

No Avatar
Eric Palmer
on November 14, 2011 - 2:20am

Neither the F-35 nor the Super Hornet will be able to stand up to emerging threats. That is the job of the F-22.
The Super and F-35 can only qualify as second-tier fighter aircraft. Also of interest, the Block II Super brings more value to a joint coalition commander than the Just So Failed.
Failure for the F-35 program is only a matter of time. It is unaffordable, and too weak. We do not need that lack of ability at any price.

Please Register

In order to leave comments you will now need to be a registered user. This change in policy is to protect our site from an increased number of spam comments. Additionally, in the near future you will be able to better manage your AIN subscriptions via this registration system. If you already have an account, click here to log in. Otherwise, click here to register.