Kory Mathews, Vice President of F/A-18 programs, says that the first of 12 aircraft equipped with wiring for conversion to the electronic-attack mission has rolled off the production line in St. Louis and will be delivered to Australia by year’s end.
For electronic awareness, the aircraft would be equipped with the ALQ-218 radar-band and ALQ-227 communications-band receivers to enable it to monitor, analyze and locate potentially hostile emitters. The aircraft could act on the information or send it to other air or ground users. Adding the ALQ-99 jamming pods would give the modified Super Hornet the full electronic-attack capability of the EA-18G.
Mathews states “Pre-wiring is a cost-effective option for a customer considering electronic awareness and/or electronic attack.” Internationally, there is “curiosity to understand what the option provides,” but no formal discussions yet, he adds.
The F/A-18F programs Vice Presidents also said that electronic awareness and electronic attack are separate functions. “Jamming is important, but there is significant operational utility in enhanced electronic awareness.”
There is “no downside” to pre-wiring the F/A-18F to provide the option for future conversion, he maintains. The additional cabling “adds about 300lbs to the aircraft, otherwise there is no difference.”
Meanwhile, Boeing is moving ahead with planned upgrades to the F/A-18E/F. Flight tests of the distributed targeting system began this month. The upgrade adds an image-exploitation processor and mass memory unit.
The system compares synthetic-aperture radar maps from the aircraft’s active-array radar with stored geo-registered SAR maps and generates precise target coordinates for GPS-guided weapons. The capability is to become operational in 2012.
This is to be followed by a podded infrared search-and-track (IRST) sensor and enhancements to the APG-79 active, electronically scanned array radar and sensor-fusion capabilities.
Boeing also is offering a range of upgrades to potential international customers, including conformal fuel tanks, large-area cockpit displays, stealthy weapons pods, enhanced-performance engine (EPE), embedded IRST and distributed aperture systems.
The only one of these formally proposed so far, Mathews says, is the increased-thrust F414EPE in the F/A-18E/F offered to India for the 126-fighter Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft requirement.