AIRSHOW-Boeing shows off F/A-18 fighter as production end looms

Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:24am EST
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By Andrea Shalal-Esa

DUBAI Nov 17 (Reuters) - Boeing's chief F/A-18 test pilot pulled the nose of the Super Hornet up into a steep 40-degree angle, then tilted the wings to the left and right, as he demonstrated the popular Navy fighter jet's ability to maneuver, even when under attack.

Loops, pirouettes and even a freefall on the plane's back followed during a demonstration flight on the opening day of the Dubai Airshow, where Boeing is showcasing a broad array of warplanes, including the F/A-18E/F, its C-17 transport planes and the P-8A maritime surveillance plane.

Boeing is scrambling to drum up additional orders for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the EA-18G Growler electronic attack plane before its production line is slated to end in 2016.

Ricardo Traven, a former Canadian Air Force pilot who has worked on the Super Hornet program since 1997, said he is convinced that the plane's capabilities will attract additional orders to keep the line running.

"These are the dark days right now," Traven told Reuters in a pre-flight briefing before a 40-minute flight at altitudes of up to 18,000 feet. "But it's such a solid airframe. The capabilities are understated, and I think the capabilities of our competition are hugely overstated."

Traven said Boeing had updated the technology on the F/A-18E/F fighter over the past decade, which meant it was more advanced and even stealthier - or able to evade enemy radar - than critics generally understood.

High above the Dubai Airshow, Traven demonstrated 7G turns - delivering seven times the force of gravity on the pilot and reporter in the backseat - and the jet's ability to continue delivering missiles or bombs even at high angles of attack that he said would stall out the Lockheed Martin Corp F-16 fighter or the Eurofighter Typhoon built by a European consortium.

To demonstrate the capability of even the relatively old radar installed on the jet used for the demonstration, Traven pinged a car on a desert highway and identified the unwitting driver's exact speed - 59 miles per hour.   Continued...