The first upgrades to be flight tested are the aerodynamic qualities and radar-cross section performance of two conformal, top-mounted fuel tanks as well as a low-observable, centerline mounted internal carriage weapons pod. Boeing has leased a U.S. Navy Super Hornet fresh off the production line for these trials. The demonstrator aircraft includes about 100 lb. of radar-absorbing or scattering coatings at specific locations on the platform as well as the dummy CFTs and weapons pod.
The upgrades designed for low observability — including the CFTs, weapons pod and a redesigned radar blocker for the engine inlet — will deliver a 50% improvement over the current Super Hornet’s frontal aspect low observability, Gibbons says.