F-18 Super Hornet

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While it looks much like an F-18A/B/C/D , the F-18E/F Super Hornet has radically new avionics, a new engine giving greater range, and, in many respects, is a generation ahead of the basic Hornet. Both series are carrier-capable. Even within the E/F series, however, there are "Blocks" incorporating additional refinement, and the Block 30, starting to be delivered, is being called the Super Hornet II+. E models have a crew of 1, while the F model and the EF-18 Growler dedicated electronic warfare variant have two crewmembers.

Avionics

As a whole, the avionics system has both faster optical communications among its modules, as well as pore powerful computers. [1] All of its sensors can go to a digital recorder, and the aircraft has much faster external communications links. One scenario, for example, would take either mapping radar imagery, or thermal imagery from the new ATFLIR pod, send it to a forward observer with ground troops, let the forward observer mark up the imagery with circled targets and warnings of air defense equipment, and send the annotated map back to the aircraft.

Radar

One of the major benefits of the Air Force's F-22 Raptor fighter is the use of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The Hornet started with the AN/APG-73 PESA radar, but the Block 30 Super Hornets are being flown from the factory with AN/APG-79 AESA. An AESA radar is faster in traditional radar modes, but also can do unique combinations, such as switching back and forth between mapping and moving target indication to know the position of a moving vehicl. Used passively in its frequency range, the AESA can collect electronic intelligence and provide its own electronic support for active electronic attack. All other upgraded and new U.S. fighters are moving to AESA designs, including the APG-77 on the Raptor, the upgraded AN/APG-63 V(3) on the F-15 Eagle and the AN/APG-63 V(4) planned for the F-15E Strike Eagle, and the AN/APG-81 for the Joint Strike Fighter versions.

Infrared

Infrared search and track (IRST) will improve air-to-air capability. IRST essentially makes the sensors of a heat-seeking missile directly available to the flight crew, although it will be integrated with the radar.

As of 2004, the Super Hornet started receiving the first infrared tracking pod that works in the longer-ranged mid-infrared wavelengths,the AN/ASQ-228.

Electronic warfare

Super Hornets have an Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures system, which will deploy in three or more blocks, the first being very much an interim capability. Versions of the AN/ALQ-165 were deployed on early aircraft, but the AN/ALQ-214 was seen as the production jammer for the later Super Hornets. [2]

International use

On February 2, 1990, Boeing and the U.S. Navy proposed the Super Hornet to the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) as the U.S. entrant in Brazil's F-X2 fighter aircraft competition. [3]

General characteristics

References