ST. LOUIS, April 14, 1999 -- The U.S. Navy's newest strike fighter, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, has successfully demonstrated its aerial refueling capability in the skies over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. During flight tests, F/A-18E1 successfully refueled another Super Hornet, an S-3 Viking and an F-14 Tomcat.
The Super Hornet is equipped with an aerial refueling system (ARS), also known as a buddy store. The ARS is an external fuel tank and hose reel mounted on the centerline of the aircraft. Fuel is transferred from the Super Hornet's ARS to another aircraft by deploying the hose, which has a basket on one end. The pilot of the aircraft to be refueled must then fly in formation, driving the fuel probe of his aircraft into the basket.
The tanker-configured Super Hornet can carry more than 29,000 pounds of fuel including up to four external 480-gallon tanks and a 330-gallon ARS. Fuel is transferred from the aircraft's internal and external fuel tanks through the ARS to the receiving aircraft.
When the Super Hornet enters the fleet, it will return a tactical airborne tanker capability to the U.S. Navy's carrier air wings. The Navy had lost that capability with the retirement of the KA-6D/A-6E. The Super Hornet will be able to fly at the same speed as the aircraft it refuels, protect itself from enemy fire, transfer fuel to the strike aircraft and return unescorted.
"Having an organic tactical tanker capability for cyclic or war-time operations brings tremendous operational flexibility to the strike planner and battle group commander. It's a requirement that's been gapped and sorely missed," said Capt. Robert O. Wirt, government flight-test director.
The Super Hornet successfully refueled an F-14 Tomcat for the first time on March 11 with Lt. Cdr. Larry Egbert at the controls of F/A-18E1. The F-14 was refueled by F/A-18E1 at 25,000 ft.
In addition, an S-3 was refueled for the first time, and another Super Hornet was refueled at altitudes up to 35,000 ft. Other planned tests of the ARS include the aerial refueling of an AV-8B Harrier.
Boeing has delivered the first three production models of the aircraft to the Navy either on schedule or ahead of schedule. The Navy has ordered 62 F/A-18E/Fs and plans to buy a minimum of 548 of the aircraft.
An industry team led by Boeing builds the Super Hornet. Boeing builds the forward fuselage and wings, and conducts final assembly. Northrop Grumman Corp. is the principal airframe subcontractor, supplying the center and aft fuselage. General Electric Co. produces the engines, and Raytheon Co. provides the radar.