Further to this post,
Boeing is trying to take advantage of the F-35 program’s problems and delays (see here and here). Flightglobal reports the US Navy may have some interest–though it’s not clear if further production beyond that already planned is being considered:
US Navy may add conformal fuel tanks to F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet
The US Navy is considering adding conformal fuel tanks (CFTs) onto its fleet of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet strike fighters, sources say. The twin dorsally mounted tanks are expected to be tested this summer.
The USN does not deny that it is interested in the conformal tanks, but says that it cannot comment on the project at this time. “As of right now this information is proprietarily owned between Boeing and Northrop [Grumman] and PMA-265 cannot talk to it,” the Naval Air Systems Command says. PMA-265 is the US Navy programme office responsible for managing the F/A-18 and EA-18G fleets.
Boeing officials did not respond to queries prior to publication.
The CFTs, which Boeing has pitched to potential buyers as part of its Super Hornet international roadmap, would allow the F/A-18E/F to carry more than 1,590kg (3,500lb) of additional fuel. “Adding these tanks would make a great deal of sense,” says Mark Gunzinger, an airpower analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “The navy really needs to extend the reach of its carrier air wings. Increased range will be needed for potential operations in the Pacific region and elsewhere.”
The USN’s efforts to add CFTs might be part of the service’s plan to hedge its bets in case of further delays to the Lockheed Martin F-35C, or if budgetary pressures force the navy to abandon that variant…
But there are questions as to whether the Super Hornet can support the added weight and drag of the CFTs without seriously impairing its aerodynamic performance…
…given the US government’s current financial situation, the USN may not be able to pay for a programme to add CFTs to the Super Hornet…
More at Fightglobal’s “The DEW Line” with some interesting PDFs:
USN looking at adding conformal fuel tanks on F/A-18E/F–also a look at Super Hornet RCS reduction measures
Here is a Boeing presentation on the F/A-18E/F international variant.
…this is the entire F/A-18E/F NATOPS manual save for the section on the aircraft’s weapons systems and performance diagrams.
Some sort of Super Hornet is included in our government’s “option analysis” (no formal competition yet) for the RCAF’s new fighter. Plus another fighter being looked at:
[note comments on Danish fighter competition and likely reduced Dutch F-35A buy]
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Research Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute