Update: Conformal Fuel Tank Retrofits

by Matthew Beres, Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Analyst, Forecast International.

The Block III F/A-18E/F Super Hornet has conformal fuel tanks, new radar, and updated cockpit and communication systems (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing has recently been awarded a $219.6 million delivery order for the design, development, test and integration of the conformal fuel tank in support of the F/A-18.  Work will be performed in various locations, and is expected to be completed in July 2022. 

The F/A-18 and other legacy fighter platforms are currently undergoing multibillion-dollar international and U.S. upgrade programs.

Boeing offers the Advanced Super Hornet, an update of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Upgrades to the Advanced Super Hornet will be offered as new-builds or for retrofit. Many of the features are already being retrofitted onto the U.S. naval fleet. One of the Advanced Super Hornet upgrades is the shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tank. The conformal fuel tank can hold up to 3,500 pounds of fuel, for a range increase of 125 nautical miles.

Advanced Super Hornets are also upgraded with the following:

  • Infrared search and track
  • EW self-protection (not the full suite found on the Growler)
  • A new display
  • More capable computers and networking
  • AESA radar

Options

  • An enclosed weapons pod – cuts radar signature by up to 50 percent
  • An improved engine

The Typhoon, meanwhile, is undergoing a conformal fuel tank retrofit as part of its P4E upgrade program, and conformal fuel tanks are offered as part of Boeing’s very attractive F-15 2040C.

Finally, Robertson Fuel Systems offers a conformal fuel tank for BHI Squared Commercial Hawks, which are aftermarket commercial offerings of the UH-60 Black Hawk. The modification carries 100 gallons of additional fuel and increases the range of the commercial S-70 by 124 nautical miles. And Arista Aviation offers the Arista Hawk, which includes modifications such as auxiliary fuel tanks.


Forecast International’s Airborne Retrofit & Modernization Forecast provides operators in the military and commercial aviation sectors with the information they need to maximize their current investments rather than expand their fleets, a trend that is opening up multiple opportunities for the expansion of retrofit and modernization programs. It offers a one-stop service for tracking the status of commercial and military R&M programs in progress worldwide, and pinpoints key developments in the aviation industry that will impact the market in the future.