Navy may add conformal fuel tanks to F/A-18E/F

2IDSGT

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US Navy may add conformal fuel tanks to F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet
http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/us-navy-may-add-conformal-fuel-tanks-to-fa-18ef-super-hornet-fleet-383701/

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...
 

Triton

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Source:
http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2013/03/usn-looking-at-adding-conforma.html

Extended range would be an important factor for operations in the Pacific theatre, but some analysts suspect that there might be more to it. The Navy might be hedging its bets against further delays on the Lockheed Martin F-35 program or it might even be preparing for the eventuality that it will have to abandon the stealthy single-engine fighter entirely.

The Navy is already working on a series of other upgrades to the Hornet including adding an infrared search and track sensor and fusing the aircraft's sensor data.

While Boeing is working to reduce the Super Hornet's signature for future international variants, the F/A-18E/F already has a fair number of features built-in to reduce its radar cross section. This is an excerpt from the jet's Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization (NATOPS) manual which describes some of those features.

Entire F/A-18E/F NATOPS manual save for the section on the aircraft's weapons systems and performance diagrams:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/131716662/34302299-A1-F18EA-NFM-000-NATOPS-Flight-Manual-F-A-18E-F-Super-Hornet-pdf
 

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blackstar

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According to Defense News, last week at the Sea-Air-Space conference Boeing discussed an F-18 Super Hornet upgrade with over-wing fuel tanks.

http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-to-demo-super-hornet-enhancements-in-summer-384367/
 

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HeavyG

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Maybe they can add it along the aircraft's spine, a la some variants of the F-16.
 

Triton

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Will it look like the Boeing F/A-18F with mock conformal fuel tanks shown at AeroIndia 2011 proposed for MRCA?

Source:
http://forums.airshows.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=8&p=310093
 

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quellish

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Triton said:
Will it look like the Boeing F/A-18F with mock conformal fuel tanks shown at AeroIndia 2011 proposed for MRCA?

Source:
http://forums.airshows.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=8&p=310093

The CFTs are part of the "International Roadmap" F-18E feature set. US Navy has expressed interest in the CFTs and some other components of the International Roadmap, but also has said they are not interested in funding development. So if Boeing can sell these features to someone else, which would subsidize development costs, US Navy may buy in after that.
 

blackstar

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HeavyG said:
Maybe they can add it along the aircraft's spine, a la some variants of the F-16.

See the picture I posted. They are clearly visible above the wings.
 

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The Growler could sure benefit from this. More time to loiter and those ECM pods can be draggy and hurt range.
 

TaiidanTomcat

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quellish said:
Triton said:
Will it look like the Boeing F/A-18F with mock conformal fuel tanks shown at AeroIndia 2011 proposed for MRCA?

Source:
http://forums.airshows.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=8&p=310093

The CFTs are part of the "International Roadmap" F-18E feature set. US Navy has expressed interest in the CFTs and some other components of the International Roadmap, but also has said they are not interested in funding development. So if Boeing can sell these features to someone else, which would subsidize development costs, US Navy may buy in after that.

Maybe I'm naive, but I dont think a F-18E/F with over wing tanks is the "JSF slayer" that people are trying to paint it as. I don't think its a zero sum game.

I think its going to be done eventually anyway (if no one else jumps in to make it happen before the USN has to pony up the cash in a couple years). an SH with more range is a good thing, an F-35C is also a good thing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgk-lA12FBk

The other trick is that adding the tanks also means the engines need a little more umph so its not just a "bolt these on, high five and walk away" kind of project. Things still need to be measured, and the consequences examined and weighed the trade offs need to be checked. The USN may add them only to newer hornets, etc.
 

donnage99

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TaiidanTomcat said:
The other trick is that adding the tanks also means the engines need a little more umph so its not just a "bolt these on, high five and walk away" kind of project. Things still need to be measured, and the consequences examined and weighed the trade offs need to be checked. The USN may add them only to newer hornets, etc.
As far as remembered, the conformal fuel tanks on the "stealth" hornet helps with lift and adds no drag (I don't remember exactly what flight envelop or all flight envelops we talking about). So it's a win win situation.
 

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Boeing had their F/A-18E/F/G simulator demonstration trailer at KCPS for the Youth Aviation Day a few weeks back. Most, if not all, of the photo posters on the walls inside were of 18s with these tanks. Sadly, they weren't giving out copies of those posters.
 

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donnage99 said:
TaiidanTomcat said:
The other trick is that adding the tanks also means the engines need a little more umph so its not just a "bolt these on, high five and walk away" kind of project. Things still need to be measured, and the consequences examined and weighed the trade offs need to be checked. The USN may add them only to newer hornets, etc.
As far as remembered, the conformal fuel tanks on the "stealth" hornet helps with lift and adds no drag (I don't remember exactly what flight envelop or all flight envelops we talking about). So it's a win win situation.

there is the added weight of fuel issue though, which might cut into what the fighter can carry..
plus the weight distribution would change, so agility and such will change.

so there are some issues that would need some extra study to pin down the effects.
 

donnage99

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mithril said:
there is the added weight of fuel issue though, which might cut into what the fighter can carry..
plus the weight distribution would change, so agility and such will change.

so there are some issues that would need some extra study to pin down the effects.
Of course. They been studying and will flight test soon.
 

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Boeing claims that the F-18 Super Hornet International offers 85% of the combat capability of the F-35C at half the acquisition cost. If it needs engines with oomph for models with conformal fuel tanks, why not also update to the new glass cockpit?

Source:
http://aviationintel.com/2011/11/06/more-info-comes-to-light-on-super-hornet-international-export-configuration/
 

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quellish

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TaiidanTomcat said:
Maybe I'm naive, but I dont think a F-18E/F with over wing tanks is the "JSF slayer" that people are trying to paint it as. I don't think its a zero sum game.

The CFTs are part of the International Roadmap package, but are not the International Roadmap package itself. IR includes a number of other features.
 

Triton

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Maybe the Boeing F-18 International will be Canada's replacement for their CF-18s paying for development costs. Then the United States Navy can go ahead an acquire these notional F-18E/F Block III Super Hornet aircraft.
 

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mithril said:
there is the added weight of fuel issue though, which might cut into what the fighter can carry..
plus the weight distribution would change, so agility and such will change.

so there are some issues that would need some extra study to pin down the effects.

Actually, the weight distribution shouldn't change, since the fuel is added very close to the C.G. and it really shouldn't impact what the fighter can carry, since it already has a robust landing gear due to the carrier requirements. But there is a chance that the gear would need some strengthening due to the increased load, which would also increase weight. However, I haven't seen it mentioned, but you do bring up a valid concern. I would argue that apparently Boeing thinks the pluses out weigh the minuses, or they wouldn't be offering it.
 

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TaiidanTomcat said:
I think its going to be done eventually anyway (if no one else jumps in to make it happen before the USN has to pony up the cash in a couple years). an SH with more range is a good thing, an F-35C is also a good thing:

They almost have to if they want to keep it relevant for more than tanking. Even if the F-35C progresses swimmingly the last thing they want is half their air wing grounded if enemy air is present.
 

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Photos of Boeing F-18 Super Hornet CFT and weapons pod mockup at St. Louis, Mo.

Source:
http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2013/05/fa-18f-cft-weapons-pod-mockup.html
 

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Sundog

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Just for reference, for those who didn't read the article, the plane that is going to fly this year is just testing the aerodynamics. The CFT's and external weapons pylon will just be representative shapes, not functioning pieces of equipment.

They also state that carrying the the external weapons bay will have about the same drag as carrying the stores within in it in a normal external fashion. I wonder if they mean that just in terms of form and interference drag, or if they are also including the minor increase in induced drag due to the increased weight? Or at least I'm assuming a functioning weapons pod would weigh more than the external pylons to carry the same load, due to the weight of the doors and launch mechanisms that would be within the pod.
 

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Can I ask why they would not simply eliminate the pylon/hardpoint between the fuselage and weapons pod all together - aka make it flush!

Regards
Pioneer
 

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Conformal carriage would force the usable volume in the pod to be reduced due to the cutout that would be needed to clear the nose landing gear actuator. If the pod was shortened to clear the actuator, AMRAAMs probably could not be carried. I assume that there would also be aerodynamic issues with a conformal pod and the flow field inboard of the intakes.
 

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flateric

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aim9xray said:
Conformal carriage would force the usable volume in the pod to be reduced due to the cutout that would be needed to clear the nose landing gear actuator. If the pod was shortened to clear the actuator, AMRAAMs probably could not be carried.
"if" and "probably" doesn't count, I wonder if you have seen pod size and operation sequence at all?
Phantom Work guys I think know how to handle aerodynamics.
 

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TaiidanTomcat

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"if" and "probably" doesn't count, I wonder if you have seen pod size and operation sequence at all?

I know I haven't. Mock-up is a Mock -up as far as I know.
 

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Almost all aircraft projects at certain time were just mock-ups, so what is your point?
 

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The pod opening in the artwork clearly extends further forward than the nose gear drag strut door. No if or probably about it. ;)

If the AMRAAM size opening was moved aft to clear the door, there would be a c.g. shift - assuming the pod is still long enough for an AMRAAM. The rear end of the pod is limited by landing gear geometry (definitely) and aerodynamics (probably).

I'm sure the Phantom Works guys understand the aerodynamics around both pylon mounted pods and conformal pods. Maybe that is part of why they chose a pylon mount.
 

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Bill Walker said:
The pod opening in the artwork clearly extends further forward than the nose gear drag strut door. No if or probably about it. ;)


I'm not sure again if you are correct, as isometry view may be playing tricks with your eye.
Second, I hope, you don't think Boeing guys are idiots showing IRM presentations to worldwide where pod intersects with NLG strut?
 

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flateric said:
I'm not sure again if you are correct, as isometry view may be playing tricks with your eye.
No, the leading edge of the pod is well forward of the trailing edge of the strut fairing door, look at the side views. I'm just backing up aim9xray's argument that the shape and position of the front of the pod is driven (at least in part) by leaving clearance for the nose gear strut.

Second, I hope, you don't think Boeing guys are idiots showing IRM presentations to worldwide where pod intersects with NLG strut?
No, the pod shown is in line with BUT BELOW the volume swept by the nose gear strut. The pictures do not show, and I never said, that the pod volume and the swept volume of the nose gear strut intersect. As aim9xray pointed out, raising the pod from its current position to be conformal WOULD intersect this strut volume - leading to complications like extra doors and door sequencing on the pod, and a loss of usable internal volume within the pod.
 

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In the latest AW&ST magazine 27 May 2013 there is an article about the future Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet. A CGI provided by Boeing shows an production F/A-18F with conformal fuel tanks and an enclosed weapons pod as shown in former pictures.
But the image also shows a new coating/camouflage, which is darker and like on F-15E. On the side is written "Advanced Super Hornet".
 

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Sundog said:
mithril said:
there is the added weight of fuel issue though, which might cut into what the fighter can carry..
plus the weight distribution would change, so agility and such will change.

so there are some issues that would need some extra study to pin down the effects.

Actually, the weight distribution shouldn't change, since the fuel is added very close to the C.G. and it really shouldn't impact what the fighter can carry, since it already has a robust landing gear due to the carrier requirements. But there is a chance that the gear would need some strengthening due to the increased load, which would also increase weight. However, I haven't seen it mentioned, but you do bring up a valid concern. I would argue that apparently Boeing thinks the pluses out weigh the minuses, or they wouldn't be offering it.

actually i was thinking more in terms of possible muntions load being reduced due to carrying extra weight of fuel. after all, a fighter can only carry so much in terms of extra weight, and every pound of extra fuel is a pound that can't be used for carrying missiles, bombs, or other gear. yet one of the Pro's of overwing/conformal tanks is freeing up hardpoints on the wings to carry munitions instead of external tanks. presumably the engineers would design the conformal tanks so they don't cut into the useful weapons load too much, but there would definitely be some trade offs involved.
 

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mithril said:
actually i was thinking more in terms of possible muntions load being reduced due to carrying extra weight of fuel. after all, a fighter can only carry so much in terms of extra weight, and every pound of extra fuel is a pound that can't be used for carrying missiles, bombs, or other gear. yet one of the Pro's of overwing/conformal tanks is freeing up hardpoints on the wings to carry munitions instead of external tanks.
External fuel tanks are not weightless either. A Hornet needs the fuel capacity anyway if you want some range. Freeing up hardpoints at least lets you carry a larger NUMBER of weapons. Depending on mission, you may want to carry many weapons (even if lighter), and not just a heavy load.
 

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The CFTs, weapon pod, IRST and uprated engines are a pretty nice upgrade to the F/A-18E/F and Growler.


A few clarifications: the flight tests are for aerodynamics and signatures and the CFTs and pod are mass and shape only. Warwick's full article gives details of that, and the engines, but I think it's subscription-only.


The upgraded aircraft surpasses the F-35C in some respects (well, it surpasses it in all respects until the F-35C gets into service) but is not intended to match its RCS - it won't and (Boeing would argue) does not need to, with its own active EW, towed decoy and Growler support. Boeing has some different technology and very different requirements when it comes to stealth.
 

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LowObservable said:
The CFTs, weapon pod, IRST and uprated engines are a pretty nice upgrade to the F/A-18E/F and Growler.


A few clarifications: the flight tests are for aerodynamics and signatures and the CFTs and pod are mass and shape only. Warwick's full article gives details of that, and the engines, but I think it's subscription-only.


The upgraded aircraft surpasses the F-35C in some respects (well, it surpasses it in all respects until the F-35C gets into service) but is not intended to match its RCS - it won't and (Boeing would argue) does not need to, with its own active EW, towed decoy and Growler support. Boeing has some different technology and very different requirements when it comes to stealth.

 

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Always one with the comedy, Mr Ferrin.


In the real world, the USN needs a plan to keep carrier air wings equipped, while waiting for F-35C IOC and also using its TacAir budget to recap non-CV Marine units, within likely projected budgets. It's not "either/or" - in the best case for the F-35C there will be a large SH/Growler contingent to 2035 at least.
 

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LowObservable said:
Always one with the comedy, Mr Ferrin.


In the real world, the USN needs a plan to keep carrier air wings equipped, while waiting for F-35C IOC and also using its TacAir budget to recap non-CV Marine units, within likely projected budgets. It's not "either/or" - in the best case for the F-35C there will be a large SH/Growler contingent to 2035 at least.

I'm all for them improving the Super Hornet (though I still think they should have gone with the canard-delta variant). It's only when the "better than the F-35" innuendo comes out that I start to see comedy.
 

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Bill Walker said:
As aim9xray pointed out, raising the pod from its current position to be conformal WOULD intersect this strut volume -
leading to complications like extra doors and door sequencing on the pod, and a loss of usable internal volume within the pod.
Well, sorry then. I understand now that aim9xray went further than proposed Boeing pod to conformal pod and we've just entered 'would' and 'if' area.
 

aim9xray

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Pioneer said:
Can I ask why they would not simply eliminate the pylon/hardpoint between the fuselage and weapons pod all together - aka make it flush!

Well actually, I was responding to Pioneer's post (quoted above) and pointing out some possible reasons why Boeing did not (could not) create a conformal belly weapons pod. Sorry for the confusion.
 

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The pod/gear relationship has a little B-58 "how does that work?" going for it. Having said that, the idea of something that size with a 2700+ pound payload raises some possibilities.


What's happening on the engine is interesting too. New details in AW&ST this week, behind the paywall. Suffice it to say that it does good things (badly needed, some would say) for acceleration. And it would make the JAS 39E go like a scalded cat.
 

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Will the underwing wet hardpoints be retained? It'd be interesting to see the balance between extra fuel usage from drag and the maximum possible fuel storage.

Anyway, it is an interesting avionics upgrade, and it does have two engines...
 

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The wing hardpoints are unchanged, but the idea is that the CFTs replace the underwing tanks. So you might see CFTs and a centerline tank on a FAC-A mission, or CFTs, a weapon pod and AIM-9s on a strike or counterair mission.
 
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