Boeing’s Super Hornet production line in St. Louis, Mo., would be sustained until 2017 if the U.S. Navy receives the 22 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare variants it seeks on a list of “unfunded” priorities the service has submitted to Congress. Industry and government analyses show a need for 50 to 100 more Growlers, Boeing contends.
McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet
F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin will retrofit early production lots of F-35Bs delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps with modified bulkheads to address cracking issues that came to light during durability testing of ground articles last fall. It will build redesigned bulkheads into the fighter beginning with low-rate production lot (LRIP) 9, said Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, deputy program manager with the Pentagon’s F-35 joint program office (JPO).
On February 11 a U.S. Navy Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet made the type’s first flight equipped with an infrared search and track sensor. Developed by Lockheed Martin, the IRST sensor is intended to give the Block II Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler a long-range, passive detection and tracking capability against multiple air targets to augment the aircraft’s APG-79 AESA radar and other sensors. Fleet fielding is scheduled for 2017.
The U.S. Air Force’s RQ-4B Global Hawk is among 16 acquisition programs that experienced problems during early testing last year that need to be corrected, according to the Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E).
The U.S. Navy recently completed engineering and manufacturing (EMD) development of the ship-based component of the Joint Precision Approach and Landing System (Jpals). The EMD phase of Jpals Increment 1A for ship systems included auto landings by F/A-18C Hornets to the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. The Increment 1B phase calls for integrating the system on aircraft.
The sunset could be farther off than thought for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the mainstay of the U.S. Navy’s carrier-based fighter fleet. With initial operational capability of the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter that will eventually replace the F/A-18 now planned in early 2019, Boeing and partner Northrop Grumman are proposing an “Advanced Super Hornet” upgrade designed to operate until 2030 and beyond.
Bell Boeing, the joint venture that produces the V-22 and MV-22 tiltrotor for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, announced that it had successfully demonstrated the capability of that aircraft to serve as an aerial refueling tanker in trials with F/A-18C/D fighters. The test V-22 used a retractable refueling drogue. Bell Boeing has been promoting the V-22 for other roles, including that of the Greyhound COD resupply mission for aircraft carriers.
Boeing is flight-testing an F/A-18F Super Hornet with conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), an enclosed weapons pod (EWP) and “signature enhancements” designed to substantially increase the range and reduce the radar signature, compared with the U.S. Navy’s Block II Super Hornet.
Although the F-35 is in much better shape now than it was a year ago, “we’re not declaring victory yet–it’s still a development program,” said Lockheed Martin v-p of F-35 program integration Steve O’Bryan at the Paris Air Show. But O’Bryan noted that the top U.S. government procurement official had recently expressed cautious optimism and declared that there are no technical showstoppers.
Australia’s recent decision to buy 12 new-build EA-18G Growler electronic warfare variants of the F/A-18F has given manufacturer Boeing hope that it can sustain its Super Hornet production line in St. Louis, Mo., to 2016 and beyond.
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