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

Boeing test pilot Steve ‘Bull’ Schmidt is a calm, cool and collected man, traits that serve him well on the job. Several times per month he flies fighter jets, just off the production line, to determine if the new aircraft can safely do what they were designed to before the military customer takes delivery.

“Flying the F/A-18 Super Hornet is the culmination of a lot of work that happens beforehand,” Schmidt said. “The engineers and mechanics on the floor are the ones who put it all together, so the high quality is really a reflection of their efforts and the team overall.”

Schmidt has flown more than 400 production first flights in his career, including the T-45, F-15, T-X and F/A-18. The next jet to be added to Schmidt’s extensive aviation resume? The Block III Super Hornet.

“I’m really excited to see what the next-generation Super Hornet can do,” he said. “As a pilot, I’m most looking forward to seeing how the conformal fuel tanks and advanced cockpit system operate in the skies. Those two capabilities are game-changers for U.S. Navy pilots.”

The Block III configuration adds capability upgrades that include enhanced network capability, longer range, reduced radar signature, an advanced cockpit system and an enhanced communication system. The fighter’s life also will be extended from 6,000 hours to 10,000 hours.

Schmidt began flying the F-14 in 1984 for the U.S. Navy. He retired from the Navy after 20 years, which included completion of the Naval Test Pilot School and Naval Fighter Weapons School, or Top Gun. Between the military and Boeing, Schmidt says he’s been flying continuously for 30 years, but still relishes his profession.

F/A-18 Super Hornet: Interesting facts and milestones 

The Super Hornet has proven to be the most cost-effective aircraft in the U.S. tactical aviation fleet, costing less per flight hour to operate than any other tactical aircraft, including the F-16.  
Two highly reliable General Electric F414-GE-400 engines power the Super Hornet, producing a combined 44,000 pounds of thrust.
The Super Hornet has 11 weapons stations, giving it extraordinary payload flexibility. 
It can carry more than 400 configurations of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance.
The first operational F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadron 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
The Commonwealth of Australia ordered 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets in 2007, becoming the first international Super Hornet customer.
Since inception, the Super Hornet program has remained on time and on cost. 
The current US Navy Super Hornet Program of record is 568 aircraft.  
In August 2013, Boeing and Northrop Grumman conducted flight tests with a prototype of an Advanced Super Hornet aircraft with conformal fuel tanks, an enclosed weapons pod and signature                enhancements.
In June 2014, Australia announced plans to acquire 12 new EA-18 Growlers, the airborne electronic attack derivative of the Super Hornet.