While the U.S. military waits patiently for the F-35 to become the new all-purpose go-to fighter of the 21st Century, the Navy has set its sights on upgrading its existing fleet of F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets to ensure America’s workhorse fighter stays relevant in the battlefield of tomorrow.

The original F/A-18 first took to the skies for test flights in November of 1978, and since then, it has enjoyed two technological refits intended to help the Navy’s most popular fighter keep up with the times.  In the years since, these fighters have wowed American audiences as the premier choice of the Navy’s elite flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels, and has proven its combat effectiveness in the Persian Gulf and the Global War on Terror time and time again.

Now, the Navy intends to start fielding the latest update to the platform, dubbed the “Block III” configuration, as early as 2019.  The $264.9 million dollar effort has been on the back burner since Boeing first recommended it in 2008, but President Trump’s bump to the defense budget seems to have been all the motivation the Navy needed to finally approve the refit.

Among the scheduled improvements are an updated heads-up display for the pilots and an upgrade to the computing capabilities of the onboard systems.  A modest upgrade to the stealth capability of the aircraft, intended to limit its radar signature, is also included in the list of changes.