The first operational Block III jet will be delivered to the Navy in early 2021
Boeing press release
The U.S. Navy will use the aircraft to familiarize pilots with the advanced cockpit system’s new 10-inch-by-19-inch touchscreen display and test the capabilities delivered with the enhanced network capability.
“The aircraft will be used for carrier suitability and integration testing of all Block III mission system components. These test jets will ensure crews have plenty of time to become comfortable with the new, next-generation systems before receiving operational aircraft.”
Steve Wade, Boeing vice president, F/A-18 & EA-18G programs
In addition to these enhancements, the Block III configuration adds capability upgrades that include longer range, reduced radar signature and an enhanced communication system. The fighter’s life also will be extended from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours.
Last year, Boeing was awarded a contract from the Navy for 78 Block III Super Hornets. Boeing and Navy test teams have also flown conformal fuel tank prototypes.
About F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet
Boeing received a whopping $4 Billion U.S. Navy contract in March last year for multi-year procurement of 78 F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet strike fighters (61 single-seat E and 17 two-seat F), delivered through 2024.
The F/A-18 Block III conduced its first flight in May 2020. Its configuration adds capability upgrades that include enhanced network capability, longer range, reduced radar signature, an advanced cockpit system and an enhanced communication system. Boeing started converting existing Block II Super Hornets to Block III this year. The fighter’s life will be extended from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours.
The Block III Super Hornet has shoulder mounted conformal fuel tanks. They can carry 3,500 pounds of additional fuel and they reduce drag, allowing the aircraft to operate longer, go faster and/or carry more weight.
Inside the cockpit, the advanced cockpit system has replaced the buttons and knobs, similar to a large tablet. The new 10-by-19 inch touchscreen display provides the pilot with the capability to see, track and target multiple long range targets generated by the common tactical picture.
The block II IRST will be able to detect threats at long range without having to depend on radar which may be jammed. The block II IRST will generate a multi-ship, common tactical picture at long range, allowing the Super Hornet to operate as a smart sensor node on the network.