Boeing Unveils New Hornet Options at Aero India
By WENDELL MINNICK
BANGALORE, India - Boeing provided a preview of new options available for international customers under the Super Hornet International Roadmap program at the 2011 Aero India defense and aerospace show at Yelahanka Air Station here on Feb. 8.
The program allows international customers to tailor the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter to meet their requirements, said Mark Gammon, Boeing's program manager for the Super Hornet International Roadmap. At present, the Roadmap is for the international market, but the U.S. Navy is looking closely at the program.
In the past two years, Boeing has been investing in the Roadmap in areas that improve situational awareness, stealth, range and precision strike capabilities.
Improvements include the Next Generation Cockpit outfitted with a new 11-by-19 inch large area display with integrated intuitive graphics and increased situational awareness.
"Basically, it's one big iPad, which provides the pilot with a large increase in display surface area," Boeing test pilot Ricardo Traven said.
Other unique features include improvements in the Hornet's stealth and range a stealthy conformal fuel tank and a conformal enclosed weapons pod, for example. The weapons pod can carry a combination of AIM-120 air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground bombs, with each Super Hornet capable of carrying three pods. The conformal fuel tank also reduces drag.
Range and speed are also increased with the GE-414 Enhanced Performance Engine (EPE).
"When you reduce the drag with the stealthy weapons pod and with an engine with 20 percent more thrust, you greatly increase range," Traven said.
Configuration flexibility improvements include an internal Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) system and a new missile and laser warning system.
Many of the new features - including AESA radar, EPE and the missile warning system - were included in India's 2008 request for proposals for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). New Delhi plans to buy 126 MMRCAs.
Not included in Boeing's MMRCA bid were conformal pods, IRST and the Next Generation Cockpit, due largely to requirement limitations at the time of the submission of proposals, but the systems could be included at a future date, a Boeing representative said.
The unveiling of the Super Hornet International Roadmap at Aero India is part of Boeing's effort to win a wide range of Indian military aircraft competitions, estimated to be worth up to $30 billion in the next ten years.