Boeing has released a brief 34 second teaser video on Twitter of the first F/A-18F Block III Super Hornet being rolled out of its production facility in St Louis.
The aircraft, painted in primer green, outwardly resembles other Super Hornet marques, but the video briefly shows the aircraft’s new 10 x 19 inch wide-screen cockpit avionics display.
Other enhancements on the Block III include a structural service life extension program (SLEP) designed to get modified jets from the originally planned life of 7,000 hours to more than 10,000 hours, the installation of plumbing and mounts for upper fuselage conformal fuel tanks (CFTs), optical fibre wiring to support new generation sensors and weapons, a new Tactical Targeting Networking Technology (TTNT) datalink, and a new Distributed Targeting Processor-Networked (DTP-N) computer.
Also included in Block III is the integration of the AN/ALQ-214 Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures (IDECM) Block IV EW suite, enhancements to the APG-79 AESA radar, and further detail improvements to the aircraft’s radar cross section.
The US Navy has funded 78 Block IIIs, but it is unclear if these are all new-build jets or a mix of new-build and upgraded in-service aircraft. To date, the only Block III element the RAAF has committed to for its F/A-18Fs is the acquisition of a small number of infrared search and track (IRST) sensors which are mounted in the front third of specially built centreline fuel tanks.