Warrior Maven F/A-18 Series: Part III - Block III Targeting Technology.
By Kris Osborn - Managing Editor - Warrior Maven
The Navy is now integrating technologies for its latest Block III Super Hornet designed to bring a new generation of sensors, targeting systems, computer processing and electronic warfare weapons to the F/A-18 fighter jet.
Given the rapid advance in sensors and long-range weapons now being matured by major US rivals such as Russia and China, Navy F/A-18 developers are planning a new Super Hornet variant equipped with advanced air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting technology, radar and electronic warfare weapons to meet emerging threats.
F/A-18 Block IIIs, to emerge in the 2020s, will be outfitted with a real-time video sharing technology called Advanced Targeting FLIR; the system uses electro-optical and infrared cameras with powerful laser technology to help pilots more quickly zero in on and attack targets with a wider and longer-range envelope of engagement, Navy and industry developers say.
“ATFLIR can locate and designate targets day or night at ranges exceeding 40 nautical miles and altitudes surpassing 50,000 feet, outperforming comparable targeting systems. As a powerful net-enabler, it can pass tracking and targeting information to other nodes in the networked battlespace,” a Raytheon statement said.
Block III F/A-18s are also being engineered with upgraded Infrared Search and Track systems as an alternative air-to-air targeting system in a "high-threat electronic attack environment," according to Naval Air Systems Command statements.
The requirement for an IRST on the Super Hornet is the direct result of advancements in threat electronic-warfare systems. The system, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, provides the F/A-18 Super Hornet an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high-threat electronic-attack environment.
Warrior Maven F-18 Mini-Series
The IRST technology was specifically engineered with a mind to the fast-changing electromagnetic warfare environment and the realization that potential future adversaries are far more likely to contest U.S. dominance in these areas.
IRST also provides the Super Hornet an alternate air-to-air targeting system in a high threat electronic attack environment, developers explained.
The IRST technology, designed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is designed to search for heat signals over long distances, providing the aircraft with key targeting information.
The IRST system —which has been tested on F/A-18s, is passive and therefore harder to detect than some radar technologies which give off radiation, Navy officials said.
Due to the widely discussed expectation of continued service mission requirements for F/A-18 Super Hornets, the Navy has continued to procure and install additional advanced systems for the aircraft --- such as the Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), High Order Language Mission Computers, ALR-67v3, ALQ-214v5, Multifunctional Information Distribution System, APG-73 radar enhancements, Advanced Targeting Forward looking Infrared upgrades; and LITENING (precision targeting and ISR system) on select Legacy aircraft.
Additional technologies for Super Hornets include Digital Communication System Radio, MIDS - Joint Tactical Radio System, Digital Memory Device, Distributed Targeting System, Infrared Search and Track (IRST) and continued advancement of the APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, officials told Warrior.
A Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System, or JHMCS, is a technology upgrade which engineers a viewing module proving 20-degree field of view visor.
JHMCS provides several options for the night module including Night Vision Cueing Display called QuadEye (100-degree by 40-degree field of view) or Aviator Night Vision Imaging System (40-degree field of view), with symbology or video inserted into the night-vision scene, Rockwell Collins information explains.
“JHMCS incorporates a highly accurate magnetic tracking system, providing the pilot full situational awareness throughout the canopy field-or-regard. JHMCS is in full-rate production and is operational on the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18,” a Rockwell Collins statement said.
\\*............ In development by Boeing for several years, the CFT effort involves engineering two new 3,500 gallon fuel tanks aligned along the contours of the aircraft to decrease the overall weight of the fighters and increase the payload or weapons capacity, Boeing developers have told Warrior Maven. While the F-18 is not a stealth aircraft, the conformal shape of the fuel tanks also slightly contributes to stealthy characteristics of the fighter, making it slightly less observable to enemy radar or reducing what’s called the “radar signature.” The CFTs will allow the Super Hornet to carry, and therefore deliver, more bombs for attack because the platform will be lighter and carry less drag, developers said..........\\*
Further F/A-18 Super Hornet technology upgrades, include "advanced fused sensors, Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, Counter Electronic Attack, Distributed Targeting System, Multi-sensor Integration, Anti-Surface Warfare , IP-Based Linked Networks and advanced air-to-ground and air-to-air precision weapons operating on an open-architecture backplane," according to statements from NAVAIR,
The Navy had been planning for the Super Hornets to serve well into the 2030s, but now service leaders say that timeline will need to extend into the 2040s. The F/A-18s are slated to fly alongside the emerging F-35C carrier-launched stealth fighter. The Navy plans to begin buying 20 F-35Cs a year by 2020.
Warrior Maven F-18 Mini-Series