Block III Super Hornet
Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Origin: United States of America
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Description: The twin-engine, carrier-based, supersonic F/A-18 Hornet was designed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to meet the US Navy requirements for an all-weather fighter and attack aircraft. This aircraft is able to perform an air strike mission deep inside enemy territory providing itself self-defense capability even beyond the visual range. It is also able to perform close air support missions. In its fighter role, the F/A-18 Hornet supplements the proven F-14 Tomcat in fleet air defense missions. The Hornet/Super Hornet multi-role aircraft is in service with the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the US Navy, and the Air Forces of Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland. More than 2,000 F/A-18s from the A, B, C, D, E, F and G models have been produced so far.
The Hornet was deployed in early 1980s replacing the F-4 Phantom II and A-7 Corsair II, and the A-6E Intruder in the 1990s. The F/A-18 demonstrated its capabilities during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, shooting down enemy aircraft and performing precision air strikes during the same mission with unprecedented tactical aircraft levels of reliability, availability and maintainability. The US Navy and the USMC F/A-18s played an important role in the military campaigns over the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq in late 1990s and early 2000s. The Super Hornet introduced in the 2000s is a new generation of this aircraft incorporating the latest stealth and information technologies and are intended to serve until 2040.
The US Navy Block III Super Hornet is a further development of the Super Hornet aircraft allowing operations along with the F-35C stealth jet well beyond the 2030s. The Block III leverages some features from the F/A-18XT Advanced Super Hornet such as the Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) and the network centric capabilities. The Block III aircraft will enjoy of an airframe capable of 9,000 flight hours, improved stealth coating with minimized radar cross section, an inner-fuel tank mounted infrared search and track (Block II IRST) and high rate data-link. The new aircraft might be powered by more powerful engines and other advancements but it is unknown at this point. All in, the US Navy may use the Block III Super Hornet as a platform to engage stealth aircraft utilizing the Block II IRST to detect J-20 and Su-57 stealth jets at longer ranges than existing infrared systems.
The US Navy plans call for the upgrade of 350 to 500 Block II Super Hornets to the Block III standard in the 2020-2030 timeframe. Besides, the US Navy may get roughly 120 new built Block III aircraft in the same period. First flight of the Block III Super Hornet is expected in 2019 or 2020 with an initial operational capability projected by 2022. The new jets will be responsible for conducting air-to-air engagements and strike missions.
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