Super Success! F-18 Super Hornet Operates 3 Unmanned UAVs In Successful Command Flight Test – Boeing

Boeing and the US Navy have completed a series of flight tests in which an F/A-18 Super Hornet jet successfully controlled three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) simultaneously, the company announced on Friday.

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“Boeing and the US Navy have completed a series of manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) flight tests in which a Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet successfully demonstrated command and control of three unmanned UAVs,” the press release said.

In the tests, Boeing system engineers connected the aircraft’s adjunct processor, known as the Distributed Targeting Processor – Networked (DTP-N), with a third-party tablet to link up with the UAVs, the release explained.

“This successful MUM-T demonstration represents a significant step towards the Navy’s vision for Distributed Maritime Operations. It highlights the potential of unmanned concepts to expand and extend the Navy’s reach,” Boeing Director for Multi-Domain Integration Scott Dickson said in the release.

Super Hornet-Block III
File Image: Boeing-Super Hornets

Boeing developed new software loads for the DTP-N specific to running the third-party tablet and transmitting commands. During the test flights, F/A-18 pilots entered commands into the tablet, which were processed and transmitted through Block III’s hardware.

The UAVs executed all commands given by F/A-18 pilots during tests over a two-week period, the release said.

Last year, Boeing provided the US Navy with the first of the 78 contracted Block III F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, the company said in a statement.

“Block III is the most advanced version of the Super Hornet and exceeds fourth-generation fighter capabilities,” the statement said.

Block III provides the US Navy with additional capabilities, including advanced cockpit systems and tools, which allow for increasing a pilot’s situational awareness, the statement explained.

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“Getting the first operational Block III in our hands is a great step forward in supporting our capability and readiness goals,” US Navy F/A-18 Program Manager Capt. Jason Denney said in the statement.

Boeing received a $4 billion contract on 61 single-seat and 17 two-seat Block III F/A-18 Super Hornets in March 2020, and the jet’s first flight took place two months later, the statement added.

Boeing will continue to deliver Block III capabilities to the US Navy through the mid-2030s, according to the statement.