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Upgrade puts sting in Hornet's tail

March 14, 2001

F/A-18 pilots from 2OCU, FLTLT Lindsay Williams, an instructor, and WGCDR Alan Clements, (then SQNLDR who has since been promoted and posted to Canberra) take a break after landing at RAAF Base Townsville. Both men, originally from Townsville, were among pilots that flew 12 Hornets into the northern city as part of an overnight refuelling stop on the way back to Williamtown from Tindal. The trip home capped off five weeks' successful training in northern Australia as part of the Fighter Combat Instructor's Course. The Air Force's entire fleet of F/A-18 Hornets should be fully upgraded by 2010. (Photograph by WO2 Gary Ramage.)
The latest phase of the Hornet Upgrade (HUG) project has commenced, with the process of equipping the Royal Australian Air Force's F/A-18 fleet with radar and flight program technology underway. This is designed to bring them into line with the most advanced aircraft of their type in the world.

The first of the F/A-18 production aircraft to enter Phase 2 of the upgrade was displayed earlier this month at an official induction ceremony at RAAF Base Williamtown.

HUG Phase 2.1 involves the installation of the advanced AN/APG-73 Fire Control Radar and 15C Operational Flight Program (OFP). The Operational Flight Program 15C will align the F/A-18 fleet with the latest available software releases from the United States Navy, keeping the Hornet competitive with other state-of-the-art aircraft.

Phase 2.1 will also improve radar reliability and performance, and enable the aircraft to be equipped with the new Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile.

Full rate production of the modified F/A-18 fleet is scheduled to commence by mid-2002, with this latest stage of the Upgrade expected to be completed by the middle of next year, according to HUG Project Manager, Wing Commander David Langlois.

WGCDR Langlois said a team of RAAF Base Williamtown personnel was working in conjunction with other Air Force and Defence Material Organisation (DMO) units in Australia on the project. RAAF technical and software liaison officers in the United States and the US Navy liaison office are also involved.

The St Louis, Missouri-based Boeing Company is the prime contractor for HUG Phase 2.1 installation, while the radar is manufactured by California's Raytheon Electronic Systems.

Representatives from Raytheon, Boeing and the US Navy attended the induction ceremony on 5 March.

Meantime, WGCDR Langlois explained that HUG Phase 1 was in full swing with 58 aircraft completed and the remainder scheduled for completion by late June 2002.

Phase 1 involved the design, development, testing and evaluation of a range of equipment, which is now featured in the bulk of the F/A-18 fleet.

Phase 1 modifications include upgraded Mission Computers, jam-resistant radios, a new combined GPS and navigation system, a new Identification Friend or Foe system and Operational Flight Program 13C. Phase 1 allows the aircraft to be equipped with the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile.

The Boeing Company signed a contract late last year committing itself to the design and development of HUG Phase 2.2, which has also commenced.

HUG Phase 2.2 modifications, due to be completed in 2006, will include a Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System, upgraded Tactical Link Data, new colour Liquid Crystal Displays for the cockpit and an Advanced Memory Unit.

WGCDR Langlois added that HUG Phase 2.3 would involve an upgrade of the Hornet's Electronic Warfare systems, while Phase 3 would involve structural modifications to the airframe.

By Ben Caddaye