June 17 (UPI) -- The first two F/A-18 Block II Super Hornet fighter planes were delivered to the U.S. Navy for testing purposes, manufacturer Boeing announced on Wednesday.
"The aircraft will be used for carrier suitability and integration testing of all Block III mission system components," Steve Wade of Boeing said in a statement. "These test jets will ensure crews have plenty of time to become comfortable with the new, next-generation systems before receiving operational aircraft."
In February, Boeing delivered its newest modified Super Hornet, which will be upgraded to Block III standards.
Hundreds of F/A-18s have been built since the plane entered service in 1999, but the Block III's capability upgrades include a cockpit touchscreen display, a reduced radar signature, longer range and an enhanced communications system.
Its expected 10,000-hour flying life is an extension over the previous model, by 4,000 hours. Its redesigned fuel tanks also provide less aerodynamic drag and can carry 3,500 pounds of fuel, allowing the aircraft to operate longer, go faster and carry more weight.
The Block III version will also have new long-range detection capabilities with use of a Block II Infrared Search and Track system of sensors detecting threats without the use of radar
The Navy now intends to upgrade a significant number of its 540 Super Hornets to the new Block III standard.
Boeing has also expressed interest in selling the planes to foreign customers, including Kuwait, which helped fund the development of the Block III program, as well as Germany and India.