Boeing, US Navy Demo New Targeting and Data Systems on EA-18G
Advanced technologies will significantly improve Growler's targeting capabilities
ST. LOUIS, Aug. 8, 2013 -- The U.S. Navy recently flew Boeing [NYSE: BA] EA-18G Growler aircraft with sensor system upgrades and its newest data network, demonstrating how the enhanced technologies would allow aircrews to locate threats more quickly and accurately.
Ultimately, the secure, high-speed network will allow aircrews to share targeting data in real time. The technology will be incorporated into deployed Growler electronic attack aircraft in 2018, sooner than all Navy aircraft other than the E-2D Hawkeye surveillance airplane.
"These enhancements provide a significantly faster, more accurate and adaptable targeting solution for the Navy and allied forces," said Capt. Frank Morley, U.S. Navy F/A-18 and EA-18G program manager. "The result is a more capable EA-18G that is better able to control the EA spectrum."
The demonstration occurred July 15-19 during the Navy's fleet experimentation campaign at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.
Integrating the technology onto the Growler involved a series of upgrades that provide "an affordable, low-risk approach to adding capability that allows us to deliver advanced technologies to the fleet more quickly," said Mike Gibbons, Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18 Programs vice president.
The upgrades are planned to be retrofitted into existing Growlers and included as a standard offering for future new aircraft sales. Boeing and the Navy will work closely with supplier partners Northrop Grumman, Harris Corporation, L-3 Communications and Rockwell Collins to add system upgrades to the fleet.
The Growler is derived from the combat-proven F/A-18F Super Hornet. It's the United States' newest and most advanced airborne electronic attack platform, providing electronic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to other aircraft. It has been combat deployed since 2010 by U.S. and allied forces around the world.
A Defense Technology Blog
New Pics: Advanced Super Hornet in Flight
Posted byAmy Butler3:31 PM on Aug 27, 2013
With the U.S. Navy eyeing radar cross-section reducing conformal fuel tanks for the F/A-18E/F, Boeing is planning to brief reporters on the Advanced Super Hornet today in St. Louis. Here are some advance pics we've obtained showing the aircraft in flight with those fuel tanks. One Boeing official says the aircraft actually has less drag with the fuel tanks than with a clean base model without them.
Boeing to demonstrate advanced multi-aircraft data fusion in 2014
By: Dave Majumdar Washington DC 2 hours ago
Boeing, in co-operation with the US Navy, is hoping to demonstrate seamlessly fusing data from multiple, different aircraft using multiple, different sensors in real time in the air in 2014, a senior company official says.
The "multi-ship/multi-spectral fusion demonstration" would see Northrop Grumman's E-2D Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft link to Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets equipped with Raytheon APG-79 active electronically scanned array radars and a Lockheed Martin-built infrared search and track system to form a common operating picture, says Paul Summers, Boeing's director of Super Hornet and EA-18G programmes.
The aircraft are expected to share data via an advanced tactical datalink to effectively eliminate von Clausewitz's "fog of war", Summers says. Exponentially increased situational awareness should greatly expand air-to-air engagement ranges.
Boeing is planning to use Rockwell Collin's Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) waveform for the demonstration. The TTNT waveform has found favour within the USN because it has much greater throughput over greater ranges than the existing Link-16 datalink.
Summers says that the demonstration will likely be held on the east coast Patuxent River, Maryland.
More on this........just for ADM!
Boeing shows off advanced Super Hornet demonstrator
By: Dave Majumdar Washington DC 36 minutes ago
Boeing has unveiled an F/A-18F Super Hornet demonstrator aircraft fitted with a number of enhancements designed to improve its stealth capability and range.
Shown at its factory in St Louis, Missouri, the modifications to the baseline aircraft include the addition of prototype conformal fuel tanks (CFT), an enclosed weapons pod and new radar cross-section treatments.
"It feels the same to the pilot," says Ricardo Traven, Boeing's chief test pilot for the type, describing the flight characteristics of the twin-engined strike fighter when equipped with the prototype 680kg (1,500lb) CFTs and 930kg weapons pod.
That was one of the goals of the effort, says Paul Summers, Boeing's F/A-18E/F and EA-18G programme director. The CFTs produce no drag at subsonic cruise speeds up to Mach 0.84, he says. In fact, at M0.6, the CFTs actually produce less drag than a clean aircraft.
Drag does rise at supersonic speeds, says Mike Gibbons, Boeing's vice-president for the F/A-18 and EA-18G, but only to a level comparable with that of a single 1,817litre (480USgal) centerline drop tank.
The prototype tanks fitted to the test aircraft, which Boeing is leasing from the US Navy, are aerodynamically representative, but are non-functional. The production version will weigh 395kg and carry 1,588kg (3,500lb) of fuel, Summers says, boosting range by 260nm (481km).
Like the conformal tanks, the prototype weapons pod is also an aerodynamically representative shape, but is non-functional. Boeing has performed windtunnel tests with the pod's doors open up to speeds of M1.6, it says.
An operational version of the weapons pod is expected to weigh roughly 408kg and hold 1,134kg of munitions. But despite its large payload, it will have roughly the same drag profile as a centerline drop tank, Summers says.
The modified Super Hornet boasts a 50% improvement in its low-observable signature. While not an all-aspect stealth aircraft, Gibbons says the enhancements will greatly improve the Super Hornet's already low frontal radar cross-section.
While it will not equate to a dedicated stealth fighter, it will be "good enough" for most of the navy's future missions in contested airspace, he says.
Summers says the prototype-equipped fighter has flown 15 flights, accumulating 25h. Nine additional flights are planned, which are anticipated to amass a further 14h.
Efforts are also under way to integrate an internal infrared search and track system on to the Super Hornet and to boost engine power on the jet's General Electric F414s by 20%.
The potential benefits of the Boeing-led efforts have not been lost on the navy. Earlier this year, Capt Frank Morley, the Naval Air Systems Command F/A-18 programme manager, told reporters that both his command and the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations are supporting the Boeing effort.
In fact, according to Boeing officials, the electronic warfare EA-18G might benefit more from the modifications than the regular Super Hornet.
Boeing estimates it could bring the modifications to market for a development cost of $1 billion by the end of the decade, if the service signs a contract relatively quickly.
Production aircraft would cost roughly 10% more than a current Block II Super Hornet.
Boeing Targeting U.S. Navy For Super Hornet Upgrades
By Amy Butler
Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report
August 29, 2013
ST. LOUIS — With 25 hr. of flight time on new, stealthy F/A-18 fuel tanks and more trials planned, Boeing is now focusing its demonstration and marketing efforts for a host of Super Hornet upgrades toward the U.S. Navy customer, a major reversal.
“This is no longer something we consider to be just an international play,” says Paul Summers, Boeing’s F/A-18 and EA-18G director. The upgrades “fit the domestic market better right now,” says Mark Gammon, program manager for Super Hornet and Growler advanced capabilities.
The upgrade project began under the nebulous F/A-18E/F “International Roadmap” moniker, with a 2010 rollout of a menu of improvements for the twin-engine fighter. The company briefed the capabilities with foreign customers, showcased them at air shows abroad and also kept the Navy in the loop — as a courtesy, officials say.
Until now, Boeing officials have been quick to correct anyone suggesting the Super Hornet improvements were ultimately trained on its largest Super Hornet customer, the Pentagon.
Despite funding pressure in the Defense Department, the Navy appears to be on board with the concept, though funding has yet to emerge. The service is allowing Boeing to lease one of its new Super Hornets for demonstration flights and requesting some specific design tweaks — such as improved fuel load in stealthy fuel tanks. Industry officials on the Super Hornet industry team suggest funding could come as early as the 2016 budget, which will be crafted next summer.
The Navy’s interest comes as the service continues its cautious support of the F-35C project. While the Marine Corps plans to declare initial operational capability (IOC) by December 2015 and the Air Force plans for it a year later, the Navy is more measured with its intention for an IOC in 2019. Boeing officials stopped short of suggesting the Advanced Super Hornet — with its operational engine upgrade, frontal-aspect stealth improvements and situational awareness adds — could be an alternative to its rival made by Lockheed Martin. Summers notes, however, that the upgrades are designed to address the predicted threat environment in 2030 and beyond.
The entire menu of upgrades could be developed for less than $1 billion, says Mike Gibbons, vice president of the Super Hornet and Growler programs for Boeing. If the service were to buy new F/A-18s with the upgrades, the cost would be roughly about $56 million, or 10% higher than the most recent flyaway cost in the third multiyear buy cited by the company of $51 million (this price includes the aircraft, both engines and electronic warfare gear).
Though not discussed by Boeing officials, the company is likely to heavily incentivize the Navy’s interest in new build aircraft in an effort to get the service to pursue the strategy used by the Australian Air Force of delaying F-35 purchases in favor of an F/A-18E/F gapfiller. But the capabilities also can be retrofitted into existing Super Hornets with relatively little destructive work needed on the aircraft. Likely the most substantial addition would be new plumbing needed for the CFTs.
“We didn’t chase this specific set of technologies because of the F-35,” Gibbons told reporters during an Advanced Super Hornet briefing here. “Affordability is the key differentiator for us.”
The first upgrades to be flight tested are the aerodynamic qualities and radar-cross section performance of two conformal, top-mounted fuel tanks as well as a low-observable, centerline mounted internal carriage weapons pod. Boeing has leased a U.S. Navy Super Hornet fresh off the production line for these trials. The demonstrator aircraft includes about 100 lb. of radar-absorbing or scattering coatings at specific locations on the platform as well as the dummy CFTs and weapons pod.
The upgrades designed for low observability — including the CFTs, weapons pod and a redesigned radar blocker for the engine inlet — will deliver a 50% improvement over the current Super Hornet’s frontal aspect low observability, Gibbons says.
There would appear to be definite advantages to the operators of F/A -18's in this upgrade package.
I wonder though if the stated ambition to sell to the US Navy has taken account of take-off weights and catapult launches, as well as recovery aboard carriers.
Yes, I know it appears self evident that this would have been addressed, but ...... has it?
Boeing media brief on the upgrade package...............
Interesting - Growler with CFT and less normal external fuel tanks:
Same mission performance with 3,000 lbs. less fuel
600+ lbs reduced landing weight
Reduces fuel required for bring-back by 400 lbs.
Un-obscured field-of-regard for jamming
Interesting indeed - lack of drag presumably
Boeing Pushing Airframe Envelope
Company Rolls Out Advanced Super Hornet Options
Sep. 13, 2013 - 04:48PM
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS
Keeping Current: Boeing's Advanced Super Hornet demonstrator features conformal fuel tanks fitted atop the fuselage and wings, and a shaped, enclosed pod to conceal weapons normally carried on wing stations. (Christopher P. Cavas / Staff)
ST. LOUIS — With more than 600 copies of the F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighter in service, more still being built and the export market only starting to be tapped, Boeing has been eyeing ways to modify and upgrade the aircraft to keep it viable in an ever-changing threat environment.
The key is to reduce radar and heat signatures, improve fuel carrying capacity, upgrade avionics, cockpit and engine systems, and do it all at a price that won’t overwhelm potential customers.
The result is the Advanced Super Hornet (ASH). Not a single aircraft, it is instead a package of options that can be bought singly or all together, made to order for new aircraft or retrofitted on existing planes.
“We want to give the customer options,” Paul Summers, Boeing’s director for Super Hornet and Growler programs, told a group of reporters brought last month, at company expense, to the Boeing factory in St. Louis, where all variants of the aircraft are built.
From its beginnings in late 2009 as the Super Hornet International Roadmap, the concept has evolved into a package of enhancements aimed not just at export customers, but at the US Navy, by far the largest operator of the plane.
“It fits the domestic market better right now,” said Mark Gammon, Boeing’s program manager for Super Hornet and Growler advanced capabilities.
The modifications are adaptable to all three Super Hornet variants: the one-seat F/A-18E and two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighters, and the two-seat E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare version.
The ASH package includes a next-generation cockpit featuring all-new displays, an internal infrared search-and-track system, upgrades to the active electronically scanned array radar, enhancements to the General Electric F404 and F414 engines, conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) that merge into the aircraft’s fuselage and wing structure, and an enclosed weapons pod (EWP) to store and launch weapons previously carried on external wing stations.
Taken together, the enhancements greatly improve the Super Hornet’s radar cross section signature, particularly from head-on.
“The current Super Hornet is considered a low-signature aircraft,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing vice president for the Super Hornet and Growler programs. With the ASH enhancements, he said, “we’ve seen a more than 50 percent improvement in frontal signature [along with] improvements in other tactical areas,” upon which he declined to elaborate.
To test the most conspicuous ASH features — the conformal fuel tanks and enclosed weapons pod — Boeing leased a factory-fresh F/A-18F from the Navy for six months. Non-functioning CFTs and an EWP shape were fitted to the aircraft, which began flight tests Aug. 5.
A total of 24 test flights are planned, both in the St. Louis operating area and out of the Navy’s Patuxent River, Md., flight test facility. The test data is being seen by both Boeing and Navy engineers. “They own this data,” Gibbons said of the Navy.
The CFTs are not a new concept, having been developed for previous aircraft models. The ASH fuel tanks are similar in concept to those Boeing is fitting on new models of the F-15, although the placement is entirely different. The Strike Eagle tanks are mounted outboard of the engine nacelles, while the ASH tanks are fitted atop the fuselage in a manner similar to tanks developed for Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighter.
Designed and manufactured by Northrop Grumman, the ASH CFTs hold 3,500 pounds of useable fuel. Internal piping changes need to be made to accommodate the new tanks, although the tanks also can be removed. Production aircraft can be flown with or without the CFT, Summers said.
The Growler community, he noted, is “particularly anxious to get the CFT,” which would eliminate the need to carry standard 480-gallon fuel tanks and open the wing stations to more carrying capacity, including the Next Generation Jammer under development.
A Growler fitted with CFTs, Boeing claims, would have the same mission performance with 3,000 pounds less fuel, reduce landing weight by more than 600 pounds and provide a clear field under the aircraft for the jammers.
The composite-and-metal CFTs were designed and manufactured by Northrop in 10 months, using — like Boeing — company funds to develop the system.
Some observers have expressed concerns about added drag from the CFTs, but the companies claim “zero/negative drag impact” from the ASH design. “There is less drag than from a centerline tank,” said Northrop’s John Murnane.
The EWP is designed to carry AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120 advanced, medium-range, air-to-air missiles, AGM-154 joint standoff weapons, small diameter bombs and other weapons. Internal carriage provides a cleaner cross section and eliminates the drag produced by hanging weapons on external hard points.
The production version of the EWP, Boeing said, will hold about 2,500 pounds of weapons, and operate through the full envelope of maneuvering capability.
Gibbons claimed development costs for all the ASH features would cost “less than a billion,” although he pointed out that engine enhancements alone, if applied across the fleet, could save about $5 billion in fuel costs.
The fly-away cost for a new Super Hornet today is just over $50 million, Boeing officials said. Adding the total ASH package for a new aircraft would run $6 million to $8 million, Summers said, while a full retrofit would run about $9 million.
The company noted that no US Navy requirement has been issued for the enhancements. The Navy, though, is watching the developments with keen interest.
“There are a number of enhancement to the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet that will sustain its lethality well into the 21st century,” a Navy official in Washington said in a statement. “These upgrades include critical growth capability and enhanced survivability.
“Naval aviation continues to study the capabilities required when the F/A-18 E/F reaches the limit of its service life beginning in 2025. It will evaluate a full range of consideration for addressing future Navy needs and recapitalization issues, including manned, unmanned and system-of-system options.”