Boeing and the US Navy have completed the F/A-18 Super Hornet flight with an Infrared Search & Track (IRST) Block II pod.

The passive, long-range IRST Block II sensor incorporates infrared and other sensor technologies for accurate targeting and is key to future Block III upgrades of the Super Hornet.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the sensor will be delivered with the Super Hornet Block III aircraft.

IRST Block II, which improves the collection and use of real-time data for F/A-18 pilots, also provides enhanced optics and processing power.

The Block III upgrades will include enhanced network capability, longer range with conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system, signature improvements and an enhanced communication system.

With the updates in place, the F/A-18 is expected to be in active service for more years.

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Boeing F/A-18 Development director Jennifer Tebo said: “The IRST Block II gives the F/A-18 improved optics and processing power, significantly improving pilot situational awareness of the entire battlespace.”

IRST Block II is currently in the risk reduction phase of development.

Flights at Boeing’s facilities allow the company and the navy to collect valuable data on the system prior to deployment to the fleet.

The US Navy will receive the Block II variant next year, when it will reach initial operational capability.

Lockheed Martin Fixed Wing Programs director Kenen Nelson said: “The IRST Block II sensor gives navy fighters extended range and increasing survivability. This technology will help the navy maintain its advantage over potential adversaries for many years.”

Last March, Boeing received a contract modification worth $4bn from the US Navy to manufacture and deliver 78 F/A-18 Block III Super Hornets.