posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 11:00 AM
The Navy is apparently talking to Boeing about adding conformal fuel tanks to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet. The addition of the tanks would add
3500 lbs of fuel to the aircraft, but would further reduce the transonic performance of the aircraft, which is already weak. Boeing says the tanks
would not add cruise drag to the aircraft, but the increased wave drag would degrade transonic acceleration.
Of the "legacy fighters" the F-18 is the slowest of the bunch, with the shortest legs. It currently uses the GE F414-GE-400 engines which produce
22,000 lbs of thrust. GE says they can upgrade the thrust to 26,400 lbs, but would require an engine redesign. There is only so much more power they
can get out of the 414, and that would theoretically be about the top end limit for the engine.
The problem now is money. The Navy and most services have a lot tied up in the F-35, and with the cuts, it's not clear if the Navy has enough for
the CFT addition, especially if they have to add an engine redesign to it. This would be a way to hedge their bets against further F-35 delays or
possible cuts, if they can find the money for it.
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.