Kuwait Firms Up Super Hornet Deal

 - April 3, 2018, 3:53 AM
Kuwait's F/A-18C/D "legacy" Hornets have seen action over Iraq and Yemen. They are being replaced by Super Hornets and Typhoons. (Photo: David Donald)

Kuwait has finalized its long-awaited order for the Boeing Super Hornet, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on March 30. The contract, worth up to $1.17 billion, covers long-lead items associated with 22 F/A-18E single-seaters and six F/A-18F two-seaters, due for delivery by 2022. The aircraft will be equipped with the Raytheon APG-79 AESA radar.

The Super Hornet deal had been held up by a delay in obtaining U.S. State Department approval, but this was received on Nov. 27, 2016. The approval covered 32 F/A-18Es and eight F/A-18Fs, as well as 12 Lockheed Martin AAQ-33 Sniper and 14 Raytheon ASQ-228 ATFLIR targeting pods.

For Boeing the Kuwaiti order is further good news for the Super Hornet production effort that is centered on its St. Louis plant. The 28-aircraft order comes shortly after news that the U.S. Navy will be buying 24 aircraft in FY2018, an increase of 10 over the 14 that the Department of Defense originally requested.

In the meantime, the Kuwait Air Force (KAF) ordered 28 Typhoons in April 2016, again specifying a 22 single-seater/six two-seater split. Construction is under way for a first delivery in 2020, with all due to be in service by 2023. They are being assembled at Leonardo’s Turin-Caselle plant and will be the first operational Typhoons to have Captor-E AESA radar. They will be equipped with the Sniper pod, and their armament will include MBDA’s Meteor, Brimstone, and Storm Shadow missiles.

Both Super Hornets and Typhoons replace a fleet of F/A-18C/D “legacy” Hornets that has been in KAF service since the first of 40 was delivered in October 1991 to replace Dassault Mirage F1CKs and Douglas A-4KU Skyhawks. As well as being used on Southern Watch air policing duties over southern Iraq in the 1990s, Kuwait’s Hornets have operated as part of the Arab coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen. Approximately 12 Kuwaiti F/A-18Cs have been deployed to Saudi Arabia for this operation, and by February 2017 they had flown around 3,000 operational sorties.

Some updating has been carried out on the aircraft, and the Sniper pods covered by the November 2016 State Department approval are intended for initial service on the F/A-18C/Ds. Lockheed Martin received an order for them in May 2017. In January 2017 Congress approved a sale to Kuwait of the AIM-120C7 AMRAAM air-to-air missile to replace earlier versions of the weapon.