The RAAF’s Super Hornets: a case for the IAF?
The Royal Australian Air Force operates 24 Super Hornets and 12 Growlers, being one of seven air forces operating the type. The F/A-18 Super Hornet brings the latest generation of technologies to the an expediential leap in technology needed for current and future missions. The Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared system, Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, Multifunctional Information Distribution System, advanced high capacity computer system, and state-of-the-art cockpit provides awareness and capability now and far into the future.
The Super Hornet is highly capable across the full mission spectrum and is a true multi-role aircraft, able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/ night strike with precision guided weapons, strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions.
to the fighter. Critical mission systems such as the radar, mission computers and sensors continue to evolve.
Boeing has also developed the Block III Super Hornet to complement existing and future air wing capabilities. Block III is also known as the Advanced Super Hornet. The Advanced F/ A- 18E/ F Super Hornet’s multi-mission capabilities include increased battle-space situational awareness, counter stealth targeting, greater range and increased acceleration, improved survivability with reduced signature.
The Block III Super Hornet will be operational at the same time as will the F-35. In the 2020s, three Super Hornet squadrons and one F-35 squadron may form the airwing of US carrier fleets.
These advanced capabilities can both be built into new aircraft and incorporated into existing aircraft, allowing maximum ability to field these capabilities rapidly. Block III Super Hornet is built from the same airframe as Block II, providing low risk development and maintaining the lowest operating costs of any US tactical fighter. While Boeing demonstrated advanced Super Hornet capabilities in flight in 2013, the package of upgrades has evolved to complement the F-35, EA-18G and E-2D which will be operating together in the air wing well into the 2040s.
Key features of Block III Super Hornet include enhanced network capability, longer range with low- drag, stealthy conformal fuel tanks, long-range detection with Infrared Search & Track, an Advanced Cockpit System, improved signature with low observable next generation radar cross section for increased survivability and 9,000+ hour life for reduced life cycle costs.
A significant design feature is the addition of Conformal Fuel Tanks. Mounted on shoulder of the Block III, conformal fuel tanks extend the range of the super Hornet by 100 nautical miles, a significantly longer range than the Block II. Conformal Fuel Tanks also free space occupied by a centreline drop-tank, thus giving an additional hard-point to carry air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons.
Modern next-generation aircraft collect a large amount of data through their sensors. The Super Hornet Block III comes equipped with Distributing Targeting Processor Network (DTP-N) and Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT). These are basically a computer and a big data platform that work together to aid in even more efficient movement and management of data within assets.
The Advanced Cockpit System simplifies the interpretation and projection of a large quantity of information for the aircrew – both in the front and rear cockpit – making it easy to manage an information network.
The F/A-18 Block III’s sensors along with the APG-79 AESA Radar coupled to DTP- N and TTNT systems plots information for aircrew to view and manage information more efficiently.
Boeing has made a few signature improvements to reduce the Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the Block III to make it even stealthier.
F/A-18 Super Hornet, ‘Make in India’
Boeing has had a presence in India for more than seven decades. Boeing’s proposed ‘Make in India’ plans for the Super Hornet is not about moving a production line but rather building an entirely new and state-of-the-art production facility that can be utilised for other programmes such as India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme.
Boeing is prepared to bring its global scale and supply chain, its best-in-industry precision manufacturing processes, as well as the company’s unrivaled experience designing and optimising aerospace production facilities to bear in both expanding India’s aerospace ecosystem and helping realise the Make in India vision. This addresses the infrastructure, personnel training, and operational tools and techniques required to produce a next to gen fighter aircraft in India.
Boeing will work closely with India industry to ensure they have the very latest technologies, applying lessons learned from the current Super Hornet production line. The programme means that airframe and subsystem manufacture by Indian industry will be done in a deliberate way, an opportunity for technology insertion and growth of India’s aerospace industry.
Boeing will partner with Indian industry to develop the right capabilities as efficiently and cost effectively as possible to integrate these suppliers into the global supply chain. Boeing and its current industry partners have had robust discussions with suppliers in India about building Super Hornets. Currently over 60,000 people from 800 suppliers across 44 states are part of the supply chain supporting the Super Hornet, which includes suppliers who manufacture parts for the Super Hornet in India.
With advanced technologies and multirole capabilities, the Super Hornet is surely suited to meet needs of the Indian Navy- and Indian Air Force – now and in the future.
Presentation at the FICCI Seminar