The US Navy and Marine Corps plan to upgrade some of their most versatile jet strike fighter aircraft, extending the platforms’ service life for a couple thousand more flight hours.

Boeing, a leading American defense company, recently received a $313.4 million contract to support the enhancement of up to 25 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter jets from the Navy fleet.

The contract covers “non-recurring engineering, system engineering program management, and additional aircraft inductions,” which will integrate Block III avionics capabilities, extending the service life of these warplanes from 6,000 flight hours to 10,000 hours and generally boost the overall performance of the Super Hornets.

Boeing plans to finish the upgraded aircraft by February 2025.

Navy’s Mainstay Fighter Jet

The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a twin-engine, supersonic fighter jet that Boeing developed for the US Navy. It is an upgraded version of the F/A-18 Hornet, which entered service in 1999.

The Super Hornet has a length of about 60 feet (18 meters), a wingspan of about 45 ft (13.7 m), and can fly at a top speed of over Mach 1.8 (more than 1,190 miles per hour or 1,915 kilometers per hour). It can carry a wide range of high-powered weapons, including air-to-air missiles (such as AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow), air-to-ground missiles (like the Harpoon), and bombs, providing the aircraft with a versatile and lethal combat capability in a wide range of mission scenarios.

Its seating depends on the variation: F/A-18E has a single-seat cockpit, while F/A-18F has two. Nonetheless, both have advanced avionics and sensor systems, including a multi-mode radar, electronic warfare suite, and helmet-mounted display system.

F/A-18F Super
A F/A-18F Super Hornet aboard the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) aircraft carrier on April 10, 2023. (Image source: DVIDS)

The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet has been used extensively in combat operations, including during the Iraq War and the ongoing conflict against Islamic State. It is also used by the US Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, for their aerial performances and has been exported to several other countries.