|(Mark Nankivil photo)
|By Carmelo Turdo
|By Mark Nankivil
The Boeing Company's Defense, Space and Security Division hosted a presentation of its Advanced Super Hornet (previously nicknamed Ultra Hornet in the media) today for members of the international aerospace media at its St. Louis Headquarters near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The Aero Experience contributors Carmelo Turdo and Mark Nankivil participated in the day's activities, along with media representatives from Aviation Week, Aviation International News, Flight Global, Jane's and Canadian Skies, among others. There were various opportunities for the media to learn about the Advanced Super Hornet, namely through a detailed briefing by Boeing program executives, an aircraft viewing session with the flight crew, a flight demonstration of the Advanced Super Hornet configured with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) and the Enclosed Weapons Pod (EWP) and a "flight" in the Next Generation Cockpit simulators. There were also opportunities to meet with Industry Partners from Northrop Grumman, General Electric and Raytheon who contribute significantly to the current and future Super Hornet production.
|(Carmelo Turdo photo)
|(Mark Nankivil photo)
|Conformal Fuel Tanks (Mark Nankivil photo)
|Enclosed Weapons Pod (Mark Nankivil photo)
According to Boeing Super Hornet and Growler Program Director Mr. Paul Summers, the Advanced Super Hornet is more a suite of upgrades rather than one aircraft model. The current prototype is fitted with two of them - Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) above the fuselage and the Enclosed Weapons Pod (EWP) on the external centerline station. These modifications to a Block 2 F/A-18F Super Hornet are for aerodynamic testing only, and do not contain operational hardware to make them functional. Nonetheless, they have been involved in 15 flights up to 350kts. airspeed to date since the first flight on August 5, and nine more are planned. The production CFTs will add 3,500 pounds of fuel, extending the aircraft's range by 260nm with essentially no drag penalty. They are manufactured by long-time Hornet production partner, Northrop Grumman. The EWP is made to contain weapons that normally are carried on high-drag pylons, and its drag penalty is no more than that of the conventional centerline fuel tank. The production EWP, which can be carried on the fuselage centerline and inboard wing pylons, will carry 2500 pounds of weapons each. These and the other modifications available in the Advanced Super Hornet suite can be accomplished at the depot maintenance level as well as in new production (estimated within the decade) at a 10% price premium over current aircraft prices.
The other modifications included in the Advanced Super Hornet suite include radar signature reduction from the front view, internal Infra-Red Search and Track Sensor (IRST), AN/APG-79 AESA Radar enhancements, Next Generation Cockpit and Enhanced Engine. According to Mr. Dan Meador, representing General Electric Aviation, the Enhanced Engine model F414 will produce up to 20% more thrust using 3% less fuel, all with 50% less overall out of service maintenance requirements.
The highlight of the day for many attending the media event was the flight demonstration of the current Advanced Super Hornet prototype, flown by Test Pilot John Tougas. The aircraft was flown once in front of the media to show off the CFTs on top and once to show off the EWP on the centerline fuselage station. Here are some views of the Advanced Super Hornet demonstration flight (photos by Carmelo Turdo and Mark Nankivil):