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The Navy suspends plans to give its Super Hornet a conformal fuel tank

The US Navy seems to have almost abandoned plans to equip the future. Block IIIF / A-18E / F Super Hornet When Conformal fuel tank, Or CFT, at least for the time being. Boeing says it is not currently expecting to ship Block III jets with CFTs to the Marines. The service itself also revealed in January that it issued a formal suspension order to Boeing regarding the continued development of CFT.

Tim Martin, Shepherd news‘Air Editor tweeted new details about the location of the CFT, or its apparent lack, earlier today in the Navy’s Block III Super Hornet Upgrade Plan. Aviation Week The Navy reported in January that it was considering a tank ax, but the service did not appear to be revealed at the time of the actual shutdown. War zone For more information, contact Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).


US Navy F / A-18F Super Hornet equipped with Conformal Fuel Tank (CFT) during testing.

“The U.S. Navy ordered Boeing to suspend work related to the Conformal Fuel Tank (CFT) on January 6, 2021 and proposed a CFT engineering change due to cost, schedule, and performance issues. Creation has been suspended, “said Martin, the service said.

“Block III, which is out of our rally today, is ready to accept conformal fuel tanks in the future,” Boeing said. Shepherd News’ As expected, the Air Editor also confirmed that the jet did not come standard with CFT.

It is unclear exactly what the Navy experienced with the CFT, but the service is Said Aviation Week Previously, there were “technical, structural, and maintenance” issues during testing in a “career environment.” A statement that Boeing added to Shepherd News Martin is that it still offers CFT as part of the Super Hornet. Selling to Canada When FinlandNeither plans to fly a jet from the flat-top deck, but it seems to strengthen the understanding that what is happening is somehow particularly relevant to the carrier’s operations.

This issue may be related to the ability of aircraft equipped with CFTs to cope with the heavy stress of landing or takeoff of aircraft carriers. This includes how the tank structure itself copes with such stress. It is also unclear whether CFT interferes with routine maintenance and other tasks and may require regular removal and reinstallation. This is a costly and time consuming proposal, an aircraft carrier. Of course, it should be emphasized that these are just a few possibilities.


Boeing’s advanced Super Hornet demonstrator.

Moreover, it is worth noting Latest annual report Nothing is said about the CFT regarding the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Testing and Evaluation (DOT & E, which covers the development of the program during fiscal year 2020)’s Super Hornet.

Whatever the exact problem, the Navy’s decision to stop Boeing’s originally announced CFT work altogether Advanced Super Hornet concept In 2008, it’s important. This service, like Boeing, has long touted tanks as a key component of the complete Block III upgrade package. This includes jet radar signatures, modern mission computers and data links, and improvements to reduce new wide area mulches. -The function displays the cockpit including the rear of the two-seater F / A-18F. These cockpits can be customized to best suit the mission requirements and user preferences.You can read more about the block III upgrade process here..

The Navy has approximately 540 F / A-18E / F Super Hornets, most of which are planned to be raised to Block III standards. In addition, the Navy is putting these jets on other upgrade programs. These include the addition of improved satellite communications (SATCOM) capabilities and the ability to employ an infrared search and track (IRST) system with a modified drop tank. You can read more about the Navy’s IRST work and its importance in this. past War zone feature..There is also Service life change (SLM) process This extends the expected life of each aircraft to approximately 10,000 flight hours, 50% longer than the existing Block II Super Hornet.


An overview of the components of the Block III Super Hornet Upgrade Package, and other Navy upgrade efforts on the aircraft.

Designed to be installed on either side of the F / A-18E / F’s central spine above the central “barrel” section of the jet, the CFT extends the range of the upgraded aircraft. I promised. When performance. The two tanks can hold a total of 515 gallons of fuel, compared to 480 gallons in the standard drag drop tank that Navy Super Hornets regularly uses. Continue to their central line station now. More importantly, conformal tanks do not occupy space on the pylon under the wings, freeing them for additional weapons and other stores.

Boeing has had CFT-equipped F / A-18E / F in the past AIM-9X Sidewinder, 2 AIM-120 The advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM), and two 2,000-pound class precision-guided munitions, have a combat radius of 714 nautical miles. With the same loadout and a single centerline drop tank instead of a CFT, the Super Hornet has a combat radius of only 594 nautical miles.

In addition, drop tanks equipped with the new IRST sacrifice fuel to integrate their new features. CFT provided a way to mitigate the range loss of aircraft equipped with that sensor system.

Lockheed Martin

The US Navy’s F / A-18F Super Hornet with a drop tank under each wing and an improved Hornet with an infrared search and track system (IRST) at its centerline station.

CFT was also seen as a potentially important addition to the Navy. EA-18G Groller Electronic warfare aircraft For the same general reason..

The Navy, along with Boeing, continues to make progress in development. MQ-25A Stingray, Unmanned aerial refueling aircraft drone. In June, NAVAIR and Boeing announced First successful aerial refueling Super Hornet T1 development test assets, Used to support the work of Stingray programs.Earlier this month, T1 fueled Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Airborne early warning and control aircraft equipped with aerial refueling probes first time..Service only Received delivery Development of the first undeveloped aerial refueling E-2D in 2019.

The Navy expects the MQ-25A to reach its initial operational capacity in 2025. Even if you follow this schedule, if the service F / A-18E / F does not receive the CFT, the cruising range and the number of stores will be reduced. Capacity combined with these drones rather than tanks.There is also some demand for refueling these drones F-35C Joint Strike FighterCurrently, it has no ability to carry a drop tank that extends its range.If still Advanced drop tank If stealth quality is developed for Joint Strike Fighter, it will have at least some impact on jet radar avoidance characteristics and is unlikely to be adopted when these jets need to be the most stealth. At the same time, the F-35C boasts a wider range than the Super Hornet.


A briefing slide showing the composition of the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) planned by the Navy by 2030. This includes 5-8 MQ-25A.

Anyway, the potential loss of hundreds of miles of Navy Super Hornet’s range can be a serious problem in future high-end conflicts that require extensive operations, especially potential potential. For Chinese In the Pacific region. The Navy’s Super Hornet’s range affects not only the targets that jets can reach from the carrier’s deck, but also how far their flat tops are from enemy defenses.Access prevention and area denial threats, including unprecedented long-haul, high-speed flights Anti-ship cruise and trajectory Missiles are just growing, this is not a minor issue.

All of this is possible as the Navy has stopped buying Super Hornets and is paying attention to the design of new advanced fighters as part of that. Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) Program.Congress responded to those plans with skepticism, and you can read more about that new debate between the Navy and the legislators who control its budget. here..

In addition, Boeing emphasized that the CFT will continue to be part of the package submitted to fighter competitions in Canada and Finland, but the Navy’s decision could still affect export opportunities. Canada and Finland may plan to operate jets only from onshore bases, but this is not the case for all potential Super Hornet customers.Boeing in particular Sell ​​F / A-18E / F to India As a career-based fighter and artwork, the company created a conceptual Indian Super Hornet show with CFT. Martin of Shepherd News does not mention in a tweet whether Boeing is still offering CFT as part of its Indian bid.


Indian Super Hornet artist concept equipped with CFT.

As already mentioned, Boeing emphasized that the Navy’s Block III Super Hornet still has the necessary preparations for the installation of a CFT in the future if the service decides to divert. Currently, the problems encountered in the tests are so serious that the Navy has determined that tanks are more problematic than their value.

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