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Looks Like Super Hornets Are Getting Conformal Fuel Tanks And New Engines

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#1 Special-K



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Posted 18 May 2017 - 1536 PM


From the above link:


The US Navy (USN) may roll-out future upgrades for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet beyond the Block 3 enhancement currently earmarked, as it looks to maintain the combat aircraft in service for decades to come.


Speaking at the company's St Louis facility in Missouri, Larry Burt, director of Global Sales & Marketing for the Global Strike division, said that, while the USN's focus is currently on the Block 3 upgrade that it set to begin rolling off the production line in 2020, further enhancements are very likely as the USN looks to maintain the combat aircraft in service out into the 2040s.


"When you look at flight plan for the future of the aircraft, there could well be lots of new capabilities added after Block 3. The Block 3 is built around a new processor that is a hundred times more powerful that today's. This processor resides outside of the aircraft's Operational Flight Program [computer], and so is not tied to its five-year software development cycle. It is truly open architecture that allows for plug and play of weapons, sensors, and systems," Burt said.

With a programme of record of 568 Super Hornet strike fighters and 160 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare (EW) aircraft, Boeing is rolling out new airframes at a rate of about two per month. Having revealed its Advanced Super Hornet concept in 2013, the company is now focused on the follow-on Block 3 configuration that will be the new baseline model for all aircraft built from 2020.


Included in Block 3 are upgrades to the Raytheon AN/APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar; an Elbit Systems large area display (LAD) 'glass' cockpit and next-generation avionics; an infrared search and track (IRST); 'shoulder-mounted' conformal fuel tanks (CFTs); Integrated Defensive Electronic Counter Measures (IDECM); and new General Electric F-414-400 enhanced engines.








I think the Conformal Fuel Tanks will be a good thing.  The extra range will be important in places like the pacific, and anything that reduces demand on tankers (dedicated or buddy) is a good thing.  Are there any real drawbacks to CFT's?  I know they also have them for the F-16, though the USAF does not use them for whatever reason.  


Also, ISTR reading about a new engine they were looking at that would either give more power or better fuel economy/range - but not both.  Is the new engine one of these or something different?  


I'm also wondering if there is a way to increase the carrying capacity, sort of like the upgrade to the F-15's they are looking at that the Saudi's already have.  





#2 Mr King

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Posted 18 May 2017 - 2251 PM

Good blog post 










Edited by Mr King, 18 May 2017 - 2255 PM.

#3 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 0230 AM

Considering this is a basic design concept that lost out all those years ago to the YF16, this is some remarkable longevity.

#4 Yama


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Posted 19 May 2017 - 0516 AM

Considering this is a basic design concept that lost out all those years ago to the YF16, this is some remarkable longevity.


Well, deep down Super Hornet is just a souped up T-38 ;)


However, if you read the article carefully, it is only stuff which Boeing plans and proposes, not something USN actually plans to implement (yet). Though, given how much problems F-35C seems to have, it seems Rhino will be produced for quite some time.

#5 Corinthian


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Posted 20 May 2017 - 2335 PM

The Superbug with the CFTs make it look like a King Cobra.

#6 Ozarks



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Posted 22 May 2017 - 1546 PM

If the conformal fuel tanks will increase speed why were they not designed to that configuration in the first place. I suspect any increase in speed is solely due to a new engine.

#7 tankerwanabe



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Posted 22 May 2017 - 1718 PM

They're comparing it to a SH with ferry tanks on its wing. It's a marketing thing.

#8 lastdingo



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Posted 22 May 2017 - 1824 PM

The design came a long way...



Are there any real drawbacks to CFT's?

  • You cannot get rid of the mass and drag by dropping the tank.
  • You may want to / need to dump all that CFT kerosene to lose weight for emergency landings or air combat (and this likely through the quick kerosene dumping exit of the regular internal fuel system).
  • Worse acceleration, particularly transsonic acceleration.
  • Higher centre of gravity, which may cause problems

Edited by lastdingo, 22 May 2017 - 1826 PM.

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