Thursday, September 26, 2013

Malaysia Has An Option Now To Consider Advanced Super Hornets, Says Boeing Official

Malaysia can now consider the Advanced Super Hornet for its multi-role combat aircraft needs, which offers significant retrofittable enhancements, including a 50 per cent increase in the capability to avoid radar detection, an enhanced engine and additional 260 nautical miles range.

Mike Gibbons, Boeing's Vice-President for F/A-18 & EA-18 Programmes, said the fighter aircraft's additional combat range has been made possible because of the conformal fuel tanks, which gives it a great advantage in being able to fly faster than with external tanks, making it more formidable against enemy aircraft and other threats.

This, along with other advanced features such as an upgraded electronic warfare system, integrated counter-measure system and enclosed weapons pod, has caught the eye of many of the Super Hornet's current and potential customers including the US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force.

Gibbons said the increase in price for the Advanced Super Hornet package would currently be nil because Malaysia can buy the Block II Super Hornet and then decide what it wants to do later in terms of retrofitting.

These advancements, which could be affordably retrofitted on an existing Block II Super Hornet aircraft or included on a new jet, were relayed to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and Defence Ministry officials during Gibbons recent visit to Malaysia.

RMAF reportedly has a requirement for 18 fighters to replace its MiG-29s as well as for three airborne early warning aircraft.

Depending on what the customer wants, Gibbons said the additional cost of the full suite of the enhancements and what he describes as technology evolutionary changes to the renowned Super Hornet fighter aircraft would be about 10 per cent.

"We, the Hornet Industry Team, comprising Boeing and our partners Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and GE Aviation, always like to push the edge of what we can do to the jet beyond the customers' requirements," he told a media briefing.

Designed with a lot of growth, he said: "Customers see what we can do (when) we mature the technologies and they want those (advancements)."

Boeing and the Hornet Industry Team are investing in next-generation capabilities, so warfighters have what they need and when they need it, which enables the customer to acquire it in a cost-effective manner.

The improvements will ensure that the Advanced Super Hornet outpaces enemy aircraft and defences through 2030 and beyond, especially when that enemy tries to deny access to a specific area, such as skies over international waters near its assets.

The enhanced features of the Advanced Super Hornet could be made available to customers as early as in 2018, Gibbons said, adding that its advanced crew station was in immediate demand in the international fighter market.

Additional advanced features customers can get the Advanced Super Hornet include enhanced survivability, internal infra-red search and track (IRST), radar upgrades, an enhanced engine that includes a 20 per cent greater thrust, and a next-generation cockpit.

Advanced Super Hornet prototype flights commenced on Aug 5, 2013 from Boeing's manufacturing plant in St Louis, the United States.

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