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.


Naval Aviation Celebrates 100 Years of Innovation

November is a historic month for aircraft carriers. A little more than a decade after the Wright brothers took flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the U.S. Navy successfully integrated flight into its operations.   On November 14, 1910, Eugene Ely launched the first aircraft from the deck of the USS Birmingham in Norfolk, Virginia, and marked the beginning of naval aviation. Five years later, on November 5, 1915, Cpt. Henry C. Mustin made the first catapult launch from a ship.

That spirit of innovation and drive to advance new technologies to enhance carrier capabilities has persisted since that first aircraft launch more than 100 years ago. It is the reason Aircraft Carrier Month is observed each November.



The performance of American naval aviators in the early years of the Vietnam War was dismal. Navy fighter jets, launching from aircraft carriers on ?Yankee Station,? flew air-to-air and air-to-ground  missions over North Vietnam. The North Vietnamese sortied their own fighter jets, Soviet-built MiGs to shoot down American aviators, resulting in intense aerial combat between the two forces. From June 1965 to September 1968, U.S. aircraft fired nearly 600 air-to-air missiles. In nearly 360 engagements, the likelihood of a kill was one per ten missiles shot, and the kill ratio between U.S. aviators and the North Vietnam Air Force was two to one. In the Korean War, American fighters had enjoyed a 10-to-1 ratio, in World War II, the Navy F6F Hellcat fighter?s kill ratio was 20-to-1. Something needed to change.


Navy’s F/A-18C Classic Hornet Makes Final Flight

The U.S. Navy’s final F/A-18C Hornet has officially retired from active duty.

The service announced this month that its last twin-engine, multirole C model made its final flight at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, on Oct. 2. The 31-year-old Hornet’s sunset flight included three F/A-18F Super Hornets, marking the Navy’s transition, which began decades ago, to the more capable and advanced fighter.

The Hornet, tail number 300, was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA)-106 “Gladiators” at Cecil Field, Florida, for its entire service life. The Navy accepted the aircraft on Oct. 14, 1988; the pilot for its final flight, Lt. Andrew Jalali, was also born that same year, according to a Navy news release.


Stingray Takes to the Air

Boeing has announced the successful first flight of the MQ-25 Stingray. The first test example (T1) of the unmanned aerial refueler for the U.S. Navy made a successful two-hour flight from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, on September 19.

During the sortie, T1 taxied and took off autonomously before flying a pre-determined route and recovering. In the course of the mission, basic flight and control functions were validated, as well as communications and control from a ground station. Although the flight was conducted autonomously, Boeing test pilots directed the mission from the ground throughout.


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. 


Measuring up: ONR tech makes sure aviators and aircraft are a perfect fit

ARLINGTON, Va.–The aspiring U.S. Navy pilot ran through a series of motions–sitting, kneeling, stretching out his arm–to gauge the type of aircraft cockpit his body would fit.

As the pilot completed each exercise, a technician hovered over him and recorded measurements using a tool called an anthropometer–consisting of several metal tubes formed into a large ruler-and-caliper set and spanning the height of a person. Total time: seven minutes.

Another pilot stood at attention while engineers connected a camera the size of a TV remote to a laptop and took a photo. Thirteen yellow-and-black dots–representing limbs and joints–peppered the pilot’s image on the computer screen. Specialized software calculated the distance between each joint to produce an accurate body measurement. Time elapsed: one minute.


Internship program exposes naval academy midshipmen to NTWL

Naval Test Wing Atlantic (NTWL) comprises four test and evaluation squadrons and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS), and each summer, selected midshipmen from the U. S. Naval Academy (USNA) have the opportunity to spend four weeks interacting with squadron personnel.

Temporary assignment to the test wing offers midshipmen the opportunity to see, firsthand, almost every platform flown by the Navy and Marine Corps.

According to the Wing?s official summary statement on the internship program, while with NTWL, candidates are assigned directly to a squadron assisting in operations and maintenance activities, which provides exposure to these critical functions, and constructive on-the-job training for the future junior officers. Interaction with flight test teams affords the midshipmen the opportunity to observe test and evaluation through all phases of the process.


Naval Aviation Facing Unexpected Budget Shortfall; Options to Slow Spending Being Considered

The naval aviation community is facing a budget shortfall of at least $100 million for the current fiscal year and may have to cut back flight hours and other operations between now and the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, USNI News learned.

Commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic Rear Adm. Roy Kelley has notified Navy leadership and the numbered fleets that the aviation community is considering not scheduling additional flyovers until the new fiscal year, reducing flight hours in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, reducing the operations of expeditionary detachments of helicopter maritime strike squadrons and helicopter sea combat squadron and possibly shutting down an air wing.


Unmanned Systems Cited as Key by Future of Aviation Panelists

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. ? Future naval aviation will benefit from the fifth-generation F-35s, manned-unmanned teaming and the possibility of greatly enhanced rotary wing aircraft being developed under the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program, a panel of Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard officials said.

The naval services also are focusing on improving the readiness of their existing aircraft, and some types of aircraft are coming close to meeting the 80% readiness goal set by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the officials told a forum on the future of naval aviation at the Navy League?s annual Sea-Air-Space exposition May 6.