F/A-18 Super Hornet to enhance India’s naval and industrial capability
Boeing’s partnership with the Indian industry and defence forces goes back to nearly seven decades. As India modernises its defence forces, Boeing is proud to support the Indian Navy with the P-8I, an advanced anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft which is an India-unique variant of the US Navy’s P-8A Poseidon. Boeing supports the Indian Air Force (IAF) with Boeing C-17 Globemaster III airlifters, which have proven strategic airlift capabilities and have completed a wide range of mission-critical roles and humanitarian missions. Soon AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook will join P-8I and C-17 in protecting India’s interests.
With the F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing sees an opportunity to further strengthen its partnership with the Indian Navy. The proposed ‘Make in India’ plan for the F/A-18 Super Hornet is an integral part of Boeing’s shared vision of the future with India’s defence forces – creating a local manufacturing ecosystem and building a foundation for defence innovation in the country.
F/A-18 Super Hornet: Unmatched today and in the future
The F/A-18 Super Hornet Block is the world’s preeminent carrier capable aircraft and best suited for India’s naval fighter requirements. It is a combat-proven, supersonic, all-weather multirole fighter jet with a defined US Navy flight plan to outpace threats into the 2040s. Every Super Hornet has been delivered on cost and on schedule to the US Navy. The Super Hornets are fully compatible with the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers. Extensive simulation has shown that the Super Hornet can conduct STOBAR operations with meaningful weapons and fuel load.
The Super Hornet’s benefits of being a twin-engine aircraft help provide the war-fighter a margin of safety that does not exist in a single-engine platform. Every Super Hornet has a buddy refuelling capability that can extend time on station, range, and endurance. Additionally, the Super Hornet can provide close and deep air support through the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar targeting data and reliable data links.
Furthermore, the F/A-18 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. The Super Hornet is designed to need far less maintenance, and this translates into high mission availability. Ease of maintenance (supportability) results in lower maintenance man-hours per flight hour. Additionally, the Super Hornet does not require any scheduled depot-level maintenance and the engine does not require any scheduled maintenance between overhauls.
Outpacing future threats through constant evolution
The Super Hornet is a platform that is continuously evolving to outpace future threats. Every two years Boeing and its industry partners, along with the US Navy, work on delivering new capabilities to the fighter. Critical mission systems such as the radar, mission computers and sensors continue to evolve to match up to the mission profiles of the future.
To address the capabilities needed in the air wing of the US Navy in the 2020s, Boeing has also developed the Block III Super Hornet to complement existing and future air wing capabilities. Block III is the same aircraft as Advanced Super Hornet. The Advanced F/A-18E/F Super Hornet’s multi-mission capabilities include battle-space situational awareness, counter stealth targeting, greater range and increased acceleration, improved survivability and reduced signature and room for growth. Currently in the US Navy, three out of four, and in most cases, all four squadrons based off aircraft carriers are Super Hornet squadrons.
A significant design evolution in the Block III is the addition of Conformal Fuel Tanks. Mounted on the shoulder of the Block III, conformal fuel tanks extend the range of the aircraft by 100 nautical miles, which is a significantly larger range when compared to the Block II. Conformal Fuel Tanks also free up the space occupied by a centreline drop-tank. This means that the air force and the navy have an additional hard-point to carry more air-to-air or air-to-ground weapons.
Modern and next-generation aircraft have a large amount of data available through their sensors. The Super Hornet Block III comes equipped with Distributing Targeting Processor Network (DTP-N) and Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT). These are basically a computer and a big data platform that work together to aid in even more efficient movement and management of data within assets.
The Advanced Cockpit System is a next-generation interface, which simplifies the interpretation and projection of a large quantity of information for the aircrew — both in the front and rear cockpit — making it easy to interface and manage an information network.
The Block IIIs sensors along with the APG-79 AESA Radar coupled to DTP-N and TTNT systems plots information on the Advances Cockpit System making it easy for aircrews to view and manage information.
Even though the Super Hornet Block II is a stealth aircraft, Boeing has made a few signature improvements to reduce the Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the Block III to make it even stealthier.
The US Navy’s continued investment in the Super Hornet is an important proof point to the fact that this aircraft will continue to have the technologies needed to outpace threats for decades to come. Boeing and the navy have laid out and maintained a robust spiral development approach to the Super Hornet that provides continuous updates to the aircraft’s subsystems and software.
Boeing, along with its industry partners, has built more than 700 Super Hornets and Growlers — all on cost and on schedule. Boeing is confident of F/A-18 production well into the mid-2020s based, given the US Navy’s need for more aircraft and near-term international opportunities.
Super Hornet ‘Make in India’ proposal: Advancing India’s fighter production capabilities
The F/A-18 Super Hornet presents dual advantages for India by bringing unmatched capabilities to naval aviation and catalysing the Indian aerospace and defence manufacturing. The proposed Super Hornet ‘Make in India’ is not just about moving a production line to India, but about building an entirely new and state-of-the-art production facility that can be utilised for other programmes like India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
Reinforcing this commitment, Boeing announced a partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS) for manufacturing the F/A-18 Super Hornet in India for its armed forces and pursuing the joint development of future technologies. The partnership brings Boeing’s global scale and supply chain, its best-in-industry precision manufacturing processes, as well as the unrivalled experience designing and optimising aerospace production facilities and combines it with the expertise of both the public sector (HAL) and private sector (MDS), in order to expand India’s aerospace ecosystem and help realise the ‘Make in India’ vision.
The partnership will also address the infrastructure, personnel training, and operational tools and techniques required to produce a next gen fighter aircraft right here in India. In addition, Boeing will work closely with India industry to ensure they have the very latest technologies, applying lessons learned from the current Super Hornet production line.
Boeing has been working with suppliers in India for over two decades in manufacturing, IT and engineering services. Today, there are more than 160 suppliers providing advanced, complex components and subassemblies for Boeing commercial and defence aircraft as part of an integrated global supply chain.
Boeing has already created a significant supplier footprint in India that can successfully execute the proposed F/A-18 Super Hornet ‘Make in India’ programme; and future production with Indian partners will involve maximising indigenous content and producing the F/A-18 in India for its armed forces to create a 21st century aerospace ecosystem.