The Advanced Super Hornet offers a menu of upgrades for the U.S. Navy’s current or new built F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Boeing believes the upgraded platform is a viable and economical way to counter emerging threats, though program personnel downplay any rivalry with the F-35C.
Most noticeably, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler, its electronic warfare platform sibling, are 25 percent larger than the original Hornet. Less noticeably — certainly from a radar’s perspective — the Super Hornet incorporates stealth technology. It also carries modern avionics and weaponry that cannot be retrofitted on legacy F/A-18s.
Advanced Super Hornet Enhancements
- Longer range with low-drag, stealthy conformal fuel tanks (CFTs)
- Enhanced low observability with enclosed weapons pod and next gen radar cross section reduction
- Enables long-range detection of adversary stealth aircraft with internal Infrared Search-and-Track (IRST)
- Significant acceleration and durability with Enhanced Engine
- Advanced information fusion optimizes decision loop
- Next-generation cockpit optimizes situational awareness and reduces workload
The Advanced Super Hornet, derived from the Block II Super Hornet, incorporates a trio of major upgrades, all retrofittable onto Super Hornets and Growlers currently in service: conformal wing-top fuel tanks, an enclosed weapons pod, and radar signature enhancements. Possible future enhancements include a high-resolution cockpit display, internal infrared search and track (IRST) system, and enhanced engines. An upgraded cockpit is already a standard international offering for new Super Hornet orders.
Internal infrared search and track (IRST) system
Internal infrared search and track (IRST) systemIRST21 Sensor System – Image: lockheedmartin.com
- Long-range infrared scan and detection of airborne threats
- Passive detection and ranging
- Large field of regard
- Immune to electronic deception
- Programmable scan modes
- Low false-alarm rate
- Automatic target detection algorithms
- Multiple mounting options
Source PDF lockheedmartin.com
Conformal fuel tanks
The two conformal fuel tanks, fitted atop the fuselage, hold 3,500 pounds of useable fuel, adding either 260 nautical miles in range or 130 nautical miles of combat radius, an impressive boost in capability for an aircraft this size. Gammon notes that “range is an ever more important topic in U.S. military, especially in the Pacific theater,” given the large distances to cover. Adding only 870 pounds of structural weight, the wing-top fuel tanks create no additional drag at subsonic speeds.
Tests have shown the CFTs installed on the upper fuselage increase the Super Hornet’s mission radius by up to 130 nm, for a total radius exceeding 700 nm. The CFTs add no drag to the aircraft at subsonic speed; at transonic or supersonic speeds they produce less drag than a centerline fuel tank, Boeing said. Enhancements to the aircraft’s radar cross section, including the EWP, produced a 50-percent improvement in its frontal low-observable (LO) signature. “We have worked very hard to make sure that the CFTs were not a negative contributor to the [radar] signature,” said Paul Summers, Boeing Super Hornet and Growler director.
CFTs on the Growler would provide equivalent mission performance in terms of range and performance, but with 3,000 pounds less fuel, compared to an EA-18G fitted with two 480-gallon external fuel tanks, three jamming pods and two AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missiles. Summers said the removal of the external fuel tanks would enable the ALQ-99 tactical jamming pods and their planned replacement system in 2020, the Next Generation Jammer, to have an unobstructed field of regard for jamming. “Historically, the fuel tanks tend to block some of the radiation coming off of the airplane,” he said. Source ainonline.com
The upgraded cockpit on new Super Hornets includes increased computing power, supporting enhanced graphical data displays, and an 11- by 19-inch touch screen. “We can create three-dimensional images of the geography that’s in front of pilots,” Gammon says.
*Note: would likely be same model as mentioned for the F-15SE
Elbit Systems of America® is a global leader in developing and manufacturing display and mission management systems for air, land, and sea applications. Military forces worldwide rely on our displays to simplify the increasing workload on commanders and crew by presenting information and crisp, sensor video images that enhance communication, navigation, and situational awareness capabilities.
Features and Benefits:
- AMLCD ruggedization to withstand and perform in harsh military environments
- Backlights efficiently deliver high brightness for direct sun viewability while allowing extreme dimmability for night operation in excess of 20,000:1
- ANVIS compatibility with both Class A and Class B requirements, wide-viewing angles, and preservation of the red color
- Powerful real-time and non real-time processors backed with our high-performance and high visual quality graphics accelerators and generators
- Optimized video processing for image clarity and resolution
- Multiple picture-in-picture windowing with a comprehensive interface suite
- System software with powerful applications including: primary flight display, situational awareness, digital real-time moving map, fusion of sensor video with digital maps, digital terrain elevation, threat intervisibility, data sharing, messaging, and EFB.
- Packaged in the smallest volume possible with the lowest power consumption and weight
Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle: Details
Meanwhile, the robust high-definition touch screen monitor (“You can stick a screwdriver through it, and it’s still functional,” Gammon says) replaces four separate cathode ray tube (CRT) displays, providing more area for presenting information and giving pilots more choices in the data they want to see. That minimizes the need to look around the panel or seek data on underlying pages during flight and combat operations. The consolidated displays also reduce the number of line replaceable units (LRUs) that have to be kept in inventory.
*Note – Assuming the same radar model used in the F-18 Super Hornet
APG-79 multi-mode radar
APG-79 multi-mode radar with passive detection mode and active radar suppression
With its active electronic beam scanning — which allows the radar beam to be steered at nearly the speed of light — the APG-79 optimizes situational awareness and provides superior air-to-air and air-to-surface capability. The agile beam enables the multimode radar to interleave in near-real time, so that pilot and crew can use both modes simultaneously.
Now in full rate production for the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Air Force, the APG-79 demonstrates reliability, image resolution, and targeting and tracking range significantly greater than that of the previous mechanically scanned array F/A-18 radar. With its open systems architecture and compact, commercial-off-the-shelf parts, it delivers dramatically increased capability in a smaller, lighter package. The array is composed of numerous solid-state transmit and receive modules to virtually eliminate mechanical breakdown. Other system components include an advanced receiver/exciter, ruggedized COTS processor, and power supplies.
In addition to the APG-79, Raytheon supplies the F/A-18E/F aircraft with several other systems. Among these are the current APG-73 radar, ATFLIR forward-looking infrared targeting pod, ALR-67(V)3 digital radar warning receiver, ALE-50 towed decoy and a variety of missiles and bombs, including laser-guided weapons such as the Paveway and JSOW. Source raytheon.com
The Advanced Super Hornet also will be stealthier than current Super Hornets. Further reducing its radar profile, external weapons can be mounted within an enclosed pod that is opened for weapon deployment. The advanced airframe also offers an option to stealthily carry the IRST system the U.S. Navy currently plans to deploy on its fighters, concealed within the gun bay door.
20mm M61A1 Vulcan
The M61A1 Vulcan cannon is a six-barrel 20mm gun capable offiring 6,600 rounds per minute. Its operation is based upon the principle used in the rapid-firing gun invented byRichard J. Gatling in the 1860s. The six rotating barrels,firing one at a time, permit a high rate of fire while at thesame time reducing the problem of barrel wear and heat generation.The gun can be driven electrically, hydraulically, or by a ram-air turbine. The Vulcan has equipped such USAF aircraft as the F-104, F-105, F-15, F-16, F/A-18, A-7D,F-111A, F-4E, B-58, and B-52H.
|Range||1 mile||1.6 km|
|Weight||255 lb||102 kg|
|Muzzle velocity||3,400 ft/s||3,730 km/h|
|Rate of fire||6,600 rounds per minute|
Boeing GBU-39 GPS-guided 113kg (250lb) small diameter bomb
The Laser Small Diameter Bomb (Laser SDB) system is the next generation of affordable and low-collateral-damage precision strike weapons, which builds on the success of the same Semi-active Laser (SAL) sensor currently used by Boeing’s Laser JDAM. A Laser SDB increases mission effectiveness in several ways:
By using already-proven laser sensor technology, Laser SDB offers the flexibility to prosecute targets of opportunity, including moving targets. With the BRU-61 Carriage System, these optimized munitions offer increased load-out for each weapons station to prosecute multiple targets per sortie. As a 250-lb. class weapon, Laser SDB’s smaller size and High Performance Wing Assembly allow it to glide for extended ranges.
Besides providing a safer standoff distance for pilots at greater than 60 nautical miles, Laser SDB target coordinates can be updated after weapon release by illuminating the target with standard Laser designation procedures. Laser SDB also retains a smaller warhead that provides reduced collateral damage, and offers ultra-low fragmentation with the composite focused lethality munition (FLM) variant. Source boeing.ca
The AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) is one of the most modern, powerful, and widely used air-to-air missiles in the entire world. After it entered limited service in 1991, this missile has been exported to about 35 countries around the world, where it has certainly been proven with over 3 900 test shots and 10 combat victories.
By the 1980s, the US deemed its current stock of air-to-air missiles, particularly the medium-range AIM-7 Sparrow, were obsolete, or at least not as capable as the latest Soviet missiles of the time. While the Sparrow was effective, with about 60 kills, it was not effective enough. In particular, it had one crushing fault—it was not fire-and-forget, meaning that the pilot was forced to remain on the scene and in danger until the missile reached its target. So, development of the AIM-120 AMRAAM began, along with European development of a short-range missile, resulting in the ASRAAM. In 1991, the AMRAAM entered limited service in the US Air Force. Two years later, it was fully operational there as well as the US Navy, while other countries started to show considerable interest.
|Country of origin||United States|
|Missile length||3.66 m|
|Missile diameter||0.18 m|
|Fin span||0.53 m|
|Missile launch weight||150.75 kg|
|Warhead weight||22.7 kg|
|Warhead type||HE blast-fragmentation|
|Range of fire||up to 75 km|
|Guidance||active radar homing|
In the future, the Advanced Super Hornet also may incorporate an enhanced version of its current GE F414-400 engines. General Electric Aircraft Engines has introduced modular upgrades to the motor that boost its power to 22,000 pounds of thrust and reduce fuel consumption from 3 to 5 percent. For combat missions, the enhanced engine could be operated at higher temperatures than previously allowed, providing an additional 20 percent thrust, a critical improvement for its air combat role.
Enhanced version of current GE F414-400 engines
General Electric F414 turbo-fan engines
Manufacturer: General Electric Co.
Thrust: 22,000 pounds
Overall Pressure Ratio at Maximum Power: 30
Thrust-to-Weight Ratio: 9
Compressor: Two-spool, axial flow, three-stage fan
LP-HP Compressor Stages: 0-7
HP-LP Turbine Stages: 1-1
Combustor Type: Annular
Engine Control: FADEC
Length: 154 in (3.91 m)
Diameter: 35 in (88.9 cm)
Dry Weight: 2,445 lbs (1,109 kg)
Platforms: F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; EA-18G Growler
The enhanced powerplant is also more durable and maintainable. Technology changes extend the time between overhaul from 2,000 to 4,000 hours for the hot section, and from 4,000 to 6,000 hours for the turbine fan.
Currently, flyaway cost of an F/A-18 E/F for the U.S. Navy is about $52 million, while the EA-18G Growler costs about $62 million. The Advanced Super Hornet capabilities would add about 10 to 15 percent to the cost of the aircraft. Meanwhile, estimates for the true costs of the F-35C range from about $85 million per aircraft to almost $300 million.
The next step is a multi-ship, multi-spectral fusion demonstration, referred to as Fleet Exercise (FLEX) ’15, scheduled for next spring. “That will involve multiple Super Hornets and Growlers using data link, which provides us with broadband Internet in the sky and a distributed targeting network that allows us to trade sensor information among all the airplanes in a strike package,”
The U.S. Navy has a Program of Record for 563 Super Hornets and 138 Growlers, for a total of more than 700 retrofittable platforms. Boeing will continue to deliver Super Hornets and Growlers to the U.S. Navy, as well as the Royal Australian Air Force, through 2016 based on the current Program of Record.
Updated Feb 19, 2017