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Advanced Super Hornet demonstrates significant stealth and range improvements

written by WOFA | August 29, 2013

The conformal fuel tanks and Enclosed Weapons Pod are clearly visible on the Advanced Super Hornet test aircraft. (Boeing)

Boeing and Northrop Grumman have demonstrated that improvements to the Super Hornet have halved the aircraft’s visibility on radar and have significantly extended its combat range.

After three week of flight testing of the Advanced Super Hornet, the F/A-18 program partners tested conformal fuel tanks (CFT), an enclosed weapons pod and radar signature enhancements. Improvements to the aircraft’s radar signature, including the enclosed pod, resulted in a 50 percent reduction compared to the US Navy’s stealth requirement for the current Super Hornet variant. The tests also showed that the CFTs increase the jet’s combat radius by up to 130nm, for a total combat radius of more than 700nm.

“Even though we added components to the aircraft, their stealthy, low-drag design will enhance the combat capability and survivability of the Super Hornet on an aircraft that has a combat-proven history launching and recovering from aircraft carriers,” said Mike Wallace, the Boeing F/A-18 test pilot who flew the Advanced Super Hornet configuration.

Boeing said the improvements “can be affordably retrofitted on an existing Block II Super Hornet aircraft or included on a new jet.”

Boeing and program partners are making further investments in Super Hornet capabilities and systems, including internal Infrared Search and Track, an enhanced performance engine and a next-generation cockpit with a large touch screen display.

The upper surface area of the Advanced Super Hornet. (Boeing)


  • NGF


    These appear to be smart and affordable modifications that will improve the effectiveness and range of the aircraft. If the US Navy decides to adopt the Advanced Super Hornet configuration, the RAAF should think seriously about retrofitting its fleet.

  • John N


    I’ve just finished reading a 21 page Power Point media release on the Advanced Super Hornet, certainly looks like an impressive list of enhancements.

    One question for Boeing is, will these enhancements go into ‘new’ production Aircraft? The answer to that is probably no, without any further new order, the production line only has a few more years to run.

    The real question is probably more on if the USN decides to adopt some or all of these enhancements into ‘future’ upgrades to their Super Hornet / Growler fleet.

    If they do, then there may be a chance that those enhancements might find there way into the RAAF fleet, up to this point the RAAF has decided to stick very closely to the USN configuration and upgrade path.

    The enhancements that most interest me, is how it would apply to the Growler version, which is most likely to stay in service a lot longer with both USN and RAAF, probably well beyond the eventual retirement of the Super Hornets.

    In the future an upgraded Growler with Conformal Fuel Tanks (removing the external underwing fuel tanks), Next Gen Jammers and possibly the centre line weapons pod, would be a path to look at, according to the Power Point briefing this would result in:
    * Same mission performance with 3000lbs less fuel
    * 600lbs+ less landing weight
    * Reduces fuel required for bring-back by 400lbs
    * Un-obscured field-of-regard for the Jammer package

    So maybe it might be worth including the ‘plumbing’ for the Conformal Fuel Tanks on the 12 new Growlers that Boeing will build for the RAAF in the next few years (similar idea to the 12 ‘pre-wired’ RAAF Super Hornets) rather than opening up the airframe at a later date.

    It will be interesting to watch the progress, or not, of the Advanced Super Hornet!


    John N

  • paul davis


    Add to that EPE engines and all the other little good bits to go with it.Very hard for those uber flankers to keep up with American tech!

  • Raymond


    Nice looking piece of gear! Will be interesting to see whether the RAAF’s Growlers will be F/A-18G ASH variants (or maybe they will be dubbed F/A-18G+?) Hopefully so; then retrofit the existing fleet as well. I am a little intrigued however, that Boeing continue to make such significant investment into the Super Hornet, when the F-35 is now entering service life. They must believe there are quite a few more years and further sales potential left in it yet.

  • Andrew McLaughlin


    The RAAF will likely only adopt these enhancements if the US Navy incorporates them into its ‘Flight Plan’ upgrade program.

    The whole idea of the RAAF Super Hornet buy was and remains to keep them as common as possible to US Navy jets so as to minimise support costs.

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