The F/A-18 Super Hornet has carried out its maiden flight in the new Block III configuration, after delivery to US Navy Blue Angels on 8 June. In a video posted Wednesday, the Chicago-based company shows the two-seater plane take to the skies for the first time.
Delivery of the 11 aircraft on order is still not expected until 2021, though further flight test examples are scheduled for the following weeks. The Block III upgrades include a new infrared search and track sensor, as well as multiple pilot interface adjustments.
Boeing secured the Block III contract back in March of last year. Worth US$4 billion over the life of the program, it also includes conversion work – which will see numerous Block II aircraft in use by the Navy upcycled to the new configuration.
The Super Hornet has been lauded by high-profile figures both within the US and abroad. Retired Admiral Pat Walsh, VP of US Navy and Marine Corps Services for Boeing, called the aircraft an “iconic representation of excellence in naval aviation”.
“As Boeing continues to support the operational fleet of Navy Super Hornets, we are excited to see this platform enter a critical phase of its journey to joining the team,” he added, in reference to the Block III deliveries.
The Super Hornet is also operated by a host of countries including Australia, Kuwait, Germany, and Canada. Though the US has committed to the Block III upgrades, many of the country’s allies have not yet touched on whether they will also look to upcycle their fleets.