Boeing rolls out Super Hornet Block III for US Navy

Boeing has released a video of the rollout of the first of two Block III F/A-18F Super Hornet test jets for the U.S. Navy. The service plans to use these aircraft, which do not feature the full set of upgrades, for various flight tests and to explore new concepts of operation ahead of the delivery of jets with the complete Block III package, which is set to begin later this year.

The video offers views of the exterior of the jet, which remains largely unchanged from earlier Super Hornets. This particular aircraft does not have its conformal fuel tanks fitted, though that is a key piece of the full Block III upgrade. The video also highlights the customizable wide-area multi-function display in one of the F/A-18F’s two cockpits, which is another important element of the Block III package.

Super Hornet Block III Package

The Block III jets will also receive new satellite communications systems and have the ability to use podded infrared search and track (IRST) sensors, which are being developed for the Block III and existing Block II Super Hornets. 

In total, the US Navy has received 322 single-seat F/A-18Es and 286 two-seated F/A-18Fs with the Block II modifications over the past 15 years. The Navy now plans to upgrade a significant number of its remaining 540 Super Hornets to the new Block III standard. A Block II upgrade effort for the service’s EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft is also in the works and there are already discussions about additional Super Hornet improvements, such as enhanced performance engines.

Germany also recently announced plans to acquire 30 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, as well as 15 EA-18G Growlers, as part of its plans to replace its aging swing-wing Panavia Tornado combat jets. The German Tornado replacement effort is a saga that is separately tied to NATO nuclear weapons sharing agreements, which you can read about in more detail previously reported by GDC.

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