In this interview, Thomas Breckenridge, Vice President, Global Sales - India, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, outlines Boeing’s proposal to make the F/A-18 Super Hornet in India and how it is evolving to meet future threat requirements of the warfighter
How will the F/A-18 Super Hornet be relevant for India’s requirements now and in the future?
One look at the decks of our navy’s aircraft carriers and the Royal Australian Air Force’s fleet and you’ll see advanced, combat-proven strike capability. The Super Hornet is the multi-role solution for the navy and international air force customers. The Royal Australian Air Force operates 24 Super Hornets and 12 Growlers. Seven air forces around the world use the Hornets.
With combat proven multi-role capabilities, advanced survivability, with room to grow and having the lowest sustainment costs among the US tactical combat fighters, the Super Hornet would be a good option for India to evaluate for its navy and air force’s fighter requirements.
The Super Hornet brings the latest generation of technologies to the warfighter. With designed-in stealth and a robust capability growth plan, the Super Hornet offers a path to India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme generating scale to close the business case of common components such as the common core engine. Boeing is also committed to expanding its partnership by producing Super Hornets in India, further developing the country’s aerospace ecosystem. Boeing will work closely with Indian industry to ensure they have the very latest technologies, applying lessons learned from the current Super Hornet production line.
What role will the F/A-18 Super Hornet play vis-à-vis the F-35 in the US Navy inventory and what is the future growth potential of the fighter?
The Super Hornet will be on the navy’s carrier decks for decades to come – being three-fourths of the navy’s strike fighter capacity into the 2030s and no less than half the carriers striking force into the 2040s.
The next-generation Block III Super Hornet comes into the US Navy and potential international customers to fulfill its role in a complementary way to work alongside the EA-18G Growler, E-2D Hawkeye and F-35. The Super Hornet and F-35 are going to work together on the carrier decks for the US Navy, well into the 2040s.
The President of the United States in his fiscal 2019 budget included a requirement for 110 Super Hornets over the next five years to address its strike fighter shortfall. At the same time, the US Navy has begun funding Block III capabilities to ensure the air wing has the capabilities needed to win in the 2020s and beyond.
That gives us a great opportunity to continue the programme which is evolutionary capability development from a risk perspective of low risk change that delivers revolutionary performance. We are excited to be building airplanes at a current production rate based on the US Navy demand and some other international customers. The President’s budget requests will have the Super Hornet production line delivering aircraft into the mid-2020s. Our current production rate is two per month. We have built and can build up to four airplanes per month so we have sufficient capacity.
What is Boeing doing to make the F/A-18 Super Hornet retain its technological edge as a 21st century fighter?
The Super Hornet is continuously evolving to outpace future threats. 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 to outpace threats for decades to come. The future insertion of conformal fuel tanks will reduce weight and drag while expanding range of the Super Hornet. As part of this development path, the enhanced GE 414 engine offers an opportunity for collaboration with Indian firms to use in the LCA and future AMCA.
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