An F/A-18E Super Hornet completed the launch from a ski jump ramp during a demo at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. Here’s the first image.
Although the demonstration was carried out in August this year, and the news was out since then, the first photo of an F/A-18E Super Hornet completing a ski jump launch at NAS Patuxent River, MD, has just been released.
The take off from the ramp at Pax River was conducted as part of a demo arranged for the Indian Navy, which has been in talks for the potential acquisition of Super Hornets for its STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) aircraft carriers, such as the INS Vikramaditya and the under-construction INS Vikrant.
The Indian Navy has expressed interest in potentially purchasing Super Hornets to complement its MiG-29K Fulcrums and the demonstration was completed to ensure the jets could launch from the Indians’ aircraft carriers.
“The extensive planning and day-to-day coordination between the F/A-18 & EA-18G Program Office International Business and Test and Evaluation (T&E) teams, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, and aircraft manufacturer, The Boeing Company, resulted in a series of test events late this summer demonstrating the capability in a variety of load configurations,” says an article published by Naval Aviation News and written by Carrie Munn, F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office Communications.
“The India ski jump demonstration is exactly what we do in developmental flight test with mitigating risk through extensive and detailed test planning and safe execution,” the program office T&E Lead, Jackie Dvorak, said.
“The supporting team worked with Boeing’s simulation data and information gleaned from previous ski jumps conducted with the F/A-18 Hornet and F-35B Lightning II to develop an Interim Flight Test Clearance. They identified a suitable test jet and instrumented it to capture data in real-time and completed multiple test events.”
The demo was attended by representatives from the Indian Embassy along with Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for International Program Rear Adm. Frank Morley. Both watched the ski jump launch and were briefed about the potential sale of the Super Hornets to the Indian Navy.
Interestingly this wasn’t the first time a Hornet carried out ski jump take offs. An Air Force Systems Command, dated 1991, says that between 1982 and 1986 “a metal ramp was constructed that could be modified to give ramp exit angles of 3, 6, and 9 degrees. The ramp was 112.1 feet long and 8.58 feet high at ‘he exit when configured for the 9 degree exit angle, measured from the horizontal. A total of 112 launches of the T-2C, 28 of the F-14, and 91 of the F/A-18 were made. The minimum ground roll for the F/A-18 was 385 feet at a gross weight of 32,800 lbs. This ramp effectively reduced the takeoff roll of the F-18 by more than 50 percent.”
The one offered to India for a contract estimated in 2017 to be worth at least 6.6B USD (for 57 fighters), is the advanced Block III Super Hornet. It features an advanced cockpit for improved SA (Situational Awareness), new computing & advanced data link, conformal fuel tanks, SATCOM connectivity, block II IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track), increased airframe lifetime as well as the possibility to team up with the Indian P-8I.
While the decision for the Indian Navy contract (where the Super Hornet competes against the Dassault Rafale M and the Maritime Gripen variant) may come as early as next year, the U.S. Navy has already started testing the first two F/A-18s, and E model and an F model, with limited Block III features that will be used for carrier suitability testing, mission systems checkout and air crew familiarization at NAS Patuxent River and Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake. The service should receive the first of 72 fully configured Block III Super Hornets by the end of the year.