Navy completes testing next-gen air combat training system on F/A-18

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The Naval Aviation Training System and Ranges program office (PMA-205) recently completed testing its next- generation air combat training system, the Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS II), on an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. 

The latest series of tests, conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, are the culmination of innovative, strategic planning across multiple organizations working together with industry to complete this mission with urgency.

“It is a significant milestone event when a system moves from lab testing to aircraft testing at Pax River.  Due to the hard work of our government and industry team, these tests are meeting program schedule dates to enable low rate production this April,” said Capt. Lisa Sullivan, PMA-205 program manager.


U.S. Navy Just Got Its First New F/A-18 Super Hornets — Here Are The Key Upgrades

Last week, the U.S. Navy took delivery of the first two examples of the latest model of its F/A-18, the Block III Super Hornet. In service with the Navy and Marine Corps since 1983, the flexible design has gone through a Porsche 911-like evolution.

Two type series of the original Hornet, the A/B and C/D preceded the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, a larger more capable version of the F/A-18 introduced in 1999. Since then the Super Hornet has been updated with “Block II” models and now there’s a “Block III” Super Hornet.


At a budgetary crossroads, the US Navy’s aviation wing must choose between old and new

WASHINGTON — In the coming years, the U.S. Navy will be faced with a decision that will radically shape the carrier air wing: Is the service willing to sacrifice dozens of new Super Hornet jets for the promise of a sixth-generation fighter in the 2030s?

The Navy is opting to buy a final 24 F/A-18E/Fs in fiscal 2021, slashing a planned purchase of at least 36 Super Hornets that would have spanned FY22 through FY24. The move will save $4.5 billion, which the service plans to redirect to its sixth-generation fighter program, known as Next Generation Air Dominance, or F/A-XX.

However, the decision may not be as clear cut — or final — as budget documents make it seem.


The new seal for the Navy’s next aircraft carrier contains a hint about big changes coming to naval aviation

This month, the US Navy unveiled the official seal for the future aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, which was officially launched on October 29, three months ahead of schedule.

The Kennedy will be christened in Newport News, Virginia, on December 7, and even though it likely won’t be commissioned into service until 2020, the carrier’s seal reveals what naval aviation will look like aboard the Kennedy in the decades to come.

The seal ? meant to honor Kennedy, his Navy service, and his vision for space exploration ? depicts several aircraft that will operate on the carrier.


Naval Aviation Achieves Readiness Target, Shifts Focus to Sustainment

SAN DIEGO ? The commander of Naval Air Forces announced on Sept. 24 that Naval Aviation has achieved its secretary of defense-mandated readiness target of an 80% mission-capable rate for both its operational F/A-18 E/F ?Super Hornet? and EA-18G ?Growler? fleets. 

After a year of reforms across Navy squadrons, maintenance and supply depots and other key readiness-enabling commands, Super Hornet and Growler readiness each stand above 80% of primary mission aircraft inventory ? 343 for Super Hornet and 95 for Growler, respectively. 

Last year, with the Navy?s mission-capable rate hovering near 50%, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis directed the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to reach an 80% rate across their fighter and strike fighter aircraft squadrons. 


Marines offering big bonuses to keep certain aviators from leaving for commercial airliners

WASHINGTON ? The Marine Corps is offering some of its aviators bonuses of up to $280,000 to remain in the service as the service looks to improve pilot retention, an issue the military has struggled with in recent years.

The Marine Corps? fiscal year 2020 aviation retention bonuses target Marine captains and majors who fly certain fighter jets, tilt-rotor aircraft, cargo planes and helicopters in an effort to offer incentive to keep pilots from moving into commercial aviation. The bonuses are available for pilots of the F-35 Lightning II, the F/A-18 Hornet, the AV-8 Harrier, the MV-22 Osprey, the C-130 Hercules, the UH-1 Huey, the AH-1 Cobra and the CH-53 Stallion, said Maj. Craig Thomas, a Marine spokesman.


?Wow, What Is That?? Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects

WASHINGTON ? The strange objects, one of them like a spinning top moving against the wind, appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East Coast. Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.

?These things would be out there all day,? said Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot who has been with the Navy for 10 years, and who reported his sightings to the Pentagon and Congress. ?Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we?d expect.?


Watchdog sounds another alarm about the sorry state of Navy depots

A government watchdog report released this week is the latest to sound warnings about the dire state of the Navy?s aviation maintenance facilities and public shipyards. The Government Accountability Office probe looked at 21 depots across the military and found the condition of most of the facilities to be ?poor and the age of equipment is generally past its useful life.? GAO graded the condition of 12 of the 21 military depots as ?poor.? Fifteen featured equipment that had exceeded its expected service life.


Blue Angels To Get 18 Early Production Super Hornets And Revised Routine For 2021 Season

The Navy is hard at work preparing the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, aka The Blue Angels, to transition from legacy F/A-18 Hornets to Super Hornets. With a new mount comes a lot of work and planning, as well as some significant changes to the Blue Angels iconic routine and to the ‘new’ aircraft themselves. The transition, which will occur between the end of a shortened 2020 season and the beginning of a shortened 2021 season, will include providing the team with a whopping 18 Super Hornets.


Marines’ Classic Hornet Jets to Get Upgraded Radar

The U.S. Marine Corps’ F/A-18C/D Hornet fighter fleet is getting a radar upgrade. The service selected Raytheon Co. to upgrade the aircraft to the APG-79(v)4 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, according to a company announcement.

The radar is a scaled version of the APG-79 AESA, which has been integrated into Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. The APG-79 gives pilots additional situational awareness, high-performance targeting and extended range. A contract amount was not disclosed.