“Unmatched & Undefeated”: The F/A-18 Super Hornet

Pilots swear by it, ground crews love working on it and commanders consider it one of the most capable assets at their disposal. Fitting multiple mission roles and embodying the true meaning of ‘anywhere, anytime’ capability; the F/A-18 Super Hornet has cemented a position for itself amongst the most legendary and game-changing fighters the world has ever seen. 

The F/A-18 Super Hornet has lived up to its reputation. Faster, more capable and lethal than its predecessor, the Super Hornet has time and again proven its supremacy in pitched aerial battles and a myriad of other strike and support missions. Equally at ease on carrier decks and forward air bases, the Super Hornet has continued to enhance itself and prove itself adept at handling every mission assigned to it. In fact, the multi-role and fully capable Super Hornet has seamlessly taken on the mantle of aircraft such as the F-14 Tomcat, A-6 Intruder, Lockheed S-3 Viking, and KA-6D aircraft. An electronic warfare variant, the EA-18G Growler, replaces the EA-6B Prowler. 

The first operational F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet squadron was formed in June 2001 and deployed into combat aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in July 2002. In April 2005, Boeing delivered the first Block II Super Hornet, complete with the world’s first tactical multi-mode AESA radar, and it became fully operational by 2007.

Apart from the US Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force also places immense trust on the Super Hornet as a multi-role, frontline fighter of choice. All 24 of the Australian Super Hornets were delivered by Boeing to the customer, ahead of schedule in October 2011. Further proof of the continued edge this fighter brings to armed forces globally can be gauged from the order recently placed by Kuwait for 22 F/A-18 Super Hornets. 

Constant Evolution for Continued Relevance

A robust roadmap has been laid out to ensure that the F/A-18 Super Hornet is capable of dealing with future threats. The US Navy’s continued investment is proof of the fact that this aircraft will continue to have the technologies needed to outpace threats for decades to come. Boeing and the US Navy have laid out and maintained a robust spiral development approach to the Super Hornet that provides updates to the aircraft’s subsystems and software every two years.

The Super Hornet is the most advanced aircraft of its kind in operation today, with designed-in stealth, an AESA radar and many other advanced technologies. The Super Hornet not only has a low acquisition cost, but it costs less per flight hour to operate than any other tactical aircraft in US forces inventory. Part of its affordability is because the Super Hornet is designed to need far less maintenance, which translates into the high mission availability it is known for.  

Boeing and its industry partners have built more than 700 Super Hornets and Growlers, all on cost and on schedule. Boeing is confident that it will see F/A-18 production well into the mid 2020’s, based on the US Navy’s need for more aircraft and near-term international opportunities.

‘Perfect Fit’ for the Indian Armed Forces 

The Super Hornet brings the latest generation of technologies to the warfighter. The AESA radar in particular, is an exponential leap in technology that will be needed for current and future missions. The Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared system, Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, Multifunctional Information Distribution System, advanced high capacity computer system, and state-of-the-art cockpit provides the warfighter with intuitive situational awareness and capability now and far into the future.  

The fighter is highly capable across the full mission spectrum and is a true multi-role aircraft; able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strike with precision guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions. It has the right level of stealth, the right sensors and the right number of missiles for the Indian Air Force’s missions.  

Boeing has also completed extensive analysis and testing on F/A-18 Super Hornet’s compatibility with Indian aircraft carriers. Results show that the Super Hornet is capable of launching off a ski-jump carrier and could be operated from Indian carriers with a meaningful fuel and weapons load.

One Fighter, Many Benefits

Boeing has had a presence in India for more than seven decades and is committed to expanding its partnership by producing Super Hornets in India and thereby further developing India’s aerospace ecosystem.  Boeing is proposing a world class advanced manufacturing facility in India with the very latest technologies in place.  

With designed-in stealth and robust capability growth plan, the Super Hornet is the best aircraft to launch India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme.  Boeing will work closely with the Indian industry to ensure they have latest technologies and apply lessons learned from the current Super Hornet production line.

Working towards this goal, in 2018, Boeing announced a partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS) for manufacturing the Super Hornet in India for its armed forces, and pursuing the joint development of future technologies.

Boeing’s partnership with HAL and Mahindra will enable it to optimise the full potential of India’s public and private sector to deliver next-generation F/A-18 fighter capabilities. Boeing envisions that this partnership can deliver an affordable, combat-proven fighter platform for India, while adding growth momentum to the Indian aerospace ecosystem with manufacturing, skill development, innovation and engineering. The partnership will transform India’s aerospace and defense ecosystem, further building on its ‘Make in India’ success. 

Future production of the Super Hornet in India, with Indian partners, will involve maximising indigenous content and producing the F/A-18 in India for its armed forces thereby creating a 21st century aerospace ecosystem.