EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Aug. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The first flight of an F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet prototype featuring conformal fuel tanks (CFT) designed and built by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC), took place earlier this month. A photo accompanying this release is available at http://media.globenewswire.com/noc/mediagallery.html?pkgid=20707. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121024/LA98563LOGO) The design and assembly of the tanks were completed in less than 10 months, ahead of schedule, due to rapid prototyping processes. The conformal fuel tanks and other new Advanced Super Hornet features allow flexibility for longer range and/or low-observable missions. "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," said John Murnane, F/A-18 program manager, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. "Given the challenge of developing the CFT in a short period of time, the success of the first prototype flight is an incredible achievement for our team." Both the F/A-18 and its electronic attack variant, the EA-18G, will benefit from the conformal fuel tanks. The tanks, which are added to the upper fuselage of the aircraft, accommodate up to 3,500 pounds of additional fuel. For a typical strike mission, a Super Hornet or Growler with CFT can increase its unrefueled radius by up to 130 nautical miles or increase its station time by more than 30 minutes. For the EA-18G aircraft, the tanks also provide enhanced capabilities when operating from an aircraft carrier by reducing overall weight. CFTs are an example of practical modernization of a reliable, proven airframe. The tanks provide new capabilities to the warfighter and can be included on new aircraft or retrofitted to the 600-plus aircraft already operating worldwide. In addition to conformal fuel tanks, the prototype aircraft features an enclosed weapons pod designed and built by Boeing, the prime contractor for the F/A-18. Other key members of the F/A-18 industry team have also developed upgrades for the Advanced Super Hornet.