Super Hornet

The US Navy has successfully completed the first test flight of infrared search and track (IRST), a passive and long-range sensor, aboard a Boeing-built F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft off Edwards Air Force Base, California, US.

Scheduled to be deployed by 2017, the IRST is being developed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin as part of a $135m contract awarded in 2011 and will be integrated as an essential upgrade to the combat capability of the US Navy’s Super Hornet aircraft.

The Navy F/A-18 program manager captain Frank Morley said that the installation of infrared sensor on to the Super Hornet strengthens the US Navy’s warfighting ability.

Morley said, "Combined with the Super Hornet’s advanced radar and the Growler’s electronic attack radar jamming ability, IRST will allow the fleet to dominate the skies in all threat environments.

"With the successful completion of the IRST first flight, we are looking forward to moving on to the next steps required to field this invaluable capability."

The IRST has been designed to ensure the Block II Super Hornet stays ahead of known and emerging threats through 2025 and beyond.

"The IRST has been designed to ensure the Block II Super Hornet stays ahead of known and emerging threats."

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control fixed wing programmes director Ken Fuhr said, "The success of this first flight and the test flights before it highlights the maturity of the next-generation IRST system that Lockheed Martin and Boeing are delivering to the US Navy today to support Navy Carrier Strike Group objectives."

The IRST system underwent initial trails on a Boeing King Air test aircraft last year, which helped reduce costs by advancing the technology prior to integration on Super Hornet aircraft.

IRST F/A-18 programme manager Tim Adrian said, "When radar isn’t an option, this upgrade allows operators to locate targets and deploy the best weapon for the mission."

Image: Crew inspects the F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft carrying the Navy’s infrared search and track (IRST) system. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

Defence Technology