Procurement: Pimp My Hornet

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October 9, 2007: Australia, not wanting to delay upgrading its fighter fleet until the F-35 is ready, has ordered 24 U.S. F-18F fighters (PHOTO). The aircraft, with associated equipment and weapons, will cost $55 million each. Associated material includes 50 AGM-154 (JSOW) missiles (with a range of 70 kilometers) and 90 JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing Systems).

JHMCS allows a pilot to see displayed on his visor, critical flight and navigation information. Sort of like a see-through computer monitor or Head Up Display. Most importantly, the pilot can turn his head towards a target, get an enemy aircraft into the crosshairs displayed on the visor, and fire a missile that will promptly go after target the pilot was looking at. There is an additional advantage in letting the pilot look around more often without having to look down at cockpit displays, or straight ahead at a HUD (Head Up Display.) This kind of freedom gives an experienced pilot an extra edge in finding enemy aircraft or targets, and maneuvering to get into a better position for attacks. JHMCS is also useful for air to ground attacks. The latest version of JHMCS allows both crewmen in the two-seat F-18F to share information. The second seat in the F-18F is occupied by someone to handle electronic warfare and ground attack.

Australia already operates 71 of the earlier F-18A/B models. This is basically a different aircraft, with only about a third of its components also used in the F-18F. That's because the U.S. Navy knew it could not get the money to build a new aircraft, so it modified the original F-18 design so much, but kept the F-18 designation, that it satisfied Congress, and got a larger and more capable fighter anyway.

 


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