Falls Church, Va.-based Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) is responsible for manufacturing about 40% of the parts that go into a Boeing F/A-18 fighter-bomber, and 50% of the "work content" making up its own EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft. Now, Northrop wants to do even more.

On Wednesday, Northrop announced the successful flight-testing of a new F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet prototype jet incorporating conformal fuel tanks that are added to the upper fuselage of the aircraft. According to Northrop, these tanks permit the Advanced Super Hornet to carry 3,500 additional pounds of fuel on missions, extending its range by up to 130 miles, and adding as much as 30 minutes to the plane's endurance.

Describing the objective, Northrop F/A-18 Program Manager John Murnane said: "We invested in conformal fuel tank research and development so we could offer our domestic and international customers the most capable and sophisticated F/A-18 possible."

As a side benefit, getting these new fuel tanks incorporated into the Advanced Super Hornet's design could boost the content Northrop puts into, and the revenue it derives from, each new plane built. As a further benefit, the company says it would retrofit "the 600-plus [F/A-18 and EA-18] aircraft already operating worldwide.


Boeing F/A-18 Hornet fighter-bomber, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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