Home » Air » Boeing builds Super Hornet digital displays for possible 2015 upgrade

Boeing builds Super Hornet digital displays for possible 2015 upgrade

by Mike Hoffman on September 17, 2012

SAINT LOUIS — Boeing has designed a digital, 11 x 19-inch moving map display to install into the cockpits of its F/A-18 Super Hornets as part of the larger round of upgrades planned for the navy fighter jet.

Boeing Military Aircraft President Christopher Chadwick said Boeing expects U.S. and coalition navies involved with the F-35 program to seek F/A-18 upgrades to back fill against delays in the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Installing the Large Area Display that looks like a large, touch screen iPad is part of that upgrade package Boeing is developing. The first displays could be installed in 2015, said Philip Carder, a Boeing spokesman.

Boeing officials boast that a pilot can puncture the display’s screen with a screwdriver and expect it to keep working. Pilots can view six different screens that they can move around on the screen with a touch of their finger.

Radar screens can be manipulated to give a 3-D view of surface-to-air missile threats to account for altitude and terrain. If a pilot wants a better view of SAM threats, he can point and drag the screen to make it bigger.

Engineers have taken into account that pilots will be wearing gloves. Boeing leaders are working on streaming the feed from drones in the region directly into the cockpit, much like the Army does with its attack helicopters.

The U.S. Navy’s Super Hornet program manager did throw a bucket of cold water on potential F/A-18 upgrades at the Farnborough International Airshow this summer when he backed away a commitment from the Navy.

“The U.S. Navy has not committed to any of those yet from a domestic standpoint,” said Capt. Frank Morley in July.

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{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

BlackOwl18E September 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Hell yes! Looks great! It's bigger than the F-35's and twice as useful with the map software. This is also a much cheaper and more simple approach to the same requirement that the DAS attempts to satisfy with the F-35. Unlike the F-35's malfunctioning helmet this gives the pilot the same situational awareness at high speed. The USN is actually planning to acquire the glass ****pit. That's what they made the new Type 4 Advanced Mission Computer for. This Type 4 AMC is specifically geared toward providing improved imaging and data transfer faster for a new ****pit display:
http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/arti

The U.S. Navy will never say it up front, but they're really tempted by the Super Hornet upgrades and the temptation is only getting stronger. They are quietly making a move toward getting this new ****pit display and it looks increasingly likely that the other upgrades will follow shortly. My guess is that they go for the conformal fuel tanks next.

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Praetorian September 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm
BlackOwl18E September 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Didn't know the Chinese made that. As long as the Super Hornets get the IRST with the advanced next generation jamming pods, the J-21 pilots better be skilled at fighting through heavy jamming and hiding their IR signature. However, whether or not the Chinese can actually build those in enough numbers to matter is another question. Also the avionics in those jets is very questionable. I don't even see an IRST on that aircraft, but then again that doesn't mean one couldn't be added later. Along with that our Aegis radar systems on our ships can find aircraft with some pretty small radar signatures. I'm not quite sure I'm too worried about this little development.

However, this begs the question of if the J-21 actually has technology stolen from the F-35 or if it is merely something the Chinese build based on public knowledge. I know the F-35 program was hacked by computers of Chinese origin. Lockheed seems to have really messed up if they let the Chinese get a hold of the technology for the fighter they're developing.

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Chops September 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Look up Shenyang F60 and tell me what you think it looks like.

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Ben September 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Heh, I'm embarrassed that DT hasn't covered the J-21's debut yet. It's all over the news. Tsk, Tsk.

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Blue 1 September 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Really? J-21 is last years news. DT broke that crap in May 2011 when "leaked" photos were abound. I believe everyone's collective comments were"it looks like a larger, heavier, slower, F-22"

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Praetorian September 20, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Blue 1, your thinking of ther J-20

Praetorian September 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Ah ha your are right, May 2011 was the J-21 on the truck covered in camo. I stand corrected. I think Ben was talking about the new pictures of the Jet.

STemplar September 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I think it's more of a question of can a CVN get near enough to China to employ its airwing and can Chinese carriers hope to survive in an ocean with US SSNs.

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BlackOwl18E September 17, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Those are the right questions to ask.

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Praetorian September 17, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Good point Stempler.

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Big-Dean September 17, 2012 at 8:05 pm

SSN and SSGN will play THE major role in any conflict with China.

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matheusdiasuk September 18, 2012 at 10:48 am

Astute & Virginia on them!

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Tiger September 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Now, now boy & girls. What is to gain in such a exchange? we need China & they need us. Fighting the PRC makes as much sense as fighting Canada.

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blight_ September 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

If the Navy doesn't commit, it will mean pushing the cost of buying such an upgrade a little higher.

The F-16 has more numerous exports, and upgrades to that platform are cost-reduced due to that economy of scale.

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Lance September 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Looks too BIG may be too confusing for a pilot who needs mutibile displays. However the F-15 and F-18 are getting major upgrades. But with cuts and the F-35 cutting into funds it may take longer than 3 years to upgrade them.

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EJ257 September 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm

That's just the enlarged mode to get a higher res, close up view. It can revert back to multi display mode. It's a giant LCD screen so I imagine they can program it to display whatever they want, it whichever order the pilots prefer. This is truly a step forward.

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RunningBear September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Actually, the "too Big" can be easily subdivided and configured by the pilot in their pre-flight. The display should be seen both as a whole and as many sub-divisions.
FADEC can be on one overview display or multiple detail displays while the radar can be displayed on one overview display or multiple details displays, radar merged with IRST can display on one overview or mulitple….etc. The size of the glass is good, only so long as the pilot can make use of it. Great job Boeing! :)

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Lance September 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Still only one display when two can work by themselves when one is damages in combat is better than being blind from one malfunction.

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Kole September 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Thank god, something we could actually use! Way to go Boeing!

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Mitch S. September 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

And pilots can watch HD movies on long patrol/ferry flights!

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Peter Miles September 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm

As a Brit the more I read this sort of thing the more I wonder why we ever decided to go for the F35 at all. We should have built our new carriers with cats and traps (and make made them nuclear but that's another story) and bought F18's. Proven, available planes at a reasonable (and known!) price. We even have RAF pilots already flying them!

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William C. September 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

When have RAF pilots flown the Super Hornet?

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Josh September 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Not sure about RAF but RN pilots who were on Harriers are now flying F18's off CVN's in the US Navy.

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Chops September 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

We still have a couple of conventionaly powered reserve fleet carriers that you Brits could get you hands on and probably have one up and running in 2 yrs. or so.

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Peter Miles September 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Now there's a thought!

How much do you want for them? :)

Peter Miles September 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm

They're flying them now, off US carriers. It is part of a scheme between our two countries to keep our carrier skills up to date. As Josh says below some are Navy ex-harrier pilots but some are RAF as well

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Musson September 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

It's really the new Apple Ipad with the F-18 APP.

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4FingersOfBourbon September 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm

All good until china hacks the trap door on it….

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jsallison September 17, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Last time I messed with MILSPEC touch screens your finger had to be bare and warmer than the screen. Do hope they’ve addressed that trivial issue.

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BlackOwl18E September 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Just thought I'd bring more good news to this discussion: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-

The USAF has finally decided to stop feeding excess money to the F-35 to account for the delays and cost overruns. The death spiral has started. I guess if anyone was going to kill the F-35 it would have to be the USAF.

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William C. September 17, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I know you desperately want a "death spiral" for the F-35, but no, this means that if Lockheed has a brain, they'll accept the hit for any further delays/problems. Despite the Lockheed derangement syndrome going on here, they want orders for 2,400 jets just as much as any other aerospace company would.

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BlackOwl18E September 17, 2012 at 8:37 pm

You're right that I really do want to see the death spiral start. However, I will point out that one of the ways that the death spiral starts is a cut off of the funding. The other two ways are the dying off of political support or a major publicity failure like a crash or a scandal. We have one of those factors in play already. I doubt Lockheed will be able to get 2,400 F-35s. In fact I'll be surprised if they get 1,000 F-35s.

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STemplar September 18, 2012 at 5:34 am

The #s will depend on the USN. If the USN buys the C there will be more than 1000 bought, but there isn't a snow balls chance in hell of 2400 anymore. The $ isn't going to be there and this new program manager has some pretty tough talk for LM. I hope so because the amount of $ being wasted on tacair is ridiculous.

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Red September 18, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Keep dreaming. The F-35 program is not going to be canceled in its entirety no matter how badly you may want it.

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torquewrench September 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm

“I think it’s more of a question of can a CVN get near enough to China to employ its airwing and can Chinese carriers hope to survive in an ocean with US SSNs.”

Can US carriers hope to survive in an ocean with Chinese SSNs?

It was a huge stroke of luck that the USSR fell apart economically before they could exploit their newly acquired capabilities in quiet SSN technology. (Big thanks to Toshiba and Konigsberg for illegally selling the technology in question to the Soviets.)

The Chinese are busy working their way up the SSN quieting curve right now (by purchase, by intellectual property theft and by indigenous innovation). And once the Chinese get past a certain inflection point, the entire Pacific is going to become a very risky place indeed for American CVN deployments.

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blight_ September 17, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I don't think anyone is denying the intentions of the PLAN; but the real question is where they really are in terms of tech.

I thought the aid from Toshiba et al went to the Russians, not the Chinese? At some point, you wonder how closely the two are collaborating, and on what fronts. The PLAN is probably doing independent espionage, rather than waiting for the Russians to give them things. And as the world's outsourcing capital, they may be better plugged into what is state of the art in western technology than the Russians.

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STemplar September 18, 2012 at 5:16 am

Given that the Chinese do less than a dozen patrol missions a year with their SSNs, have no way to communicate underway, haven't integrated them into an actual task force, and have never conducted a single deterrence patrol with their lone SSBN, I would say for the foreseeable future the USN would wipe the ocean bottom with their junk.

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blight_ September 17, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Who's the prospective customer if not the USN? Just Australia? Hah.

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BlackOwl18E September 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Hahahaha, so true!

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STemplar September 18, 2012 at 5:17 am

India might be interested.

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BlackOwl18E September 18, 2012 at 7:41 am

India already had it offered to them and went with a European fighter. The USN and Australia are the only real market targets.

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Praetorian September 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

The contract for the Rafales is still not signed. There has been hints of problems with trems with France. Even the Russians have refloated the F-35 to the Indians.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/russia-hints-india-could-refloat-mmrca-tender/284397-3.html

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Praetorian September 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Although, India has no time to really refloat this competition, due to thier ageing Mig-21 fleet. India is most likley trying to get a better deal
then opening another competition.

STemplar September 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm

That was for the MMRCA contract. Not a carrier plane. Given the Indians are building full size flat deck carriers once that is done they might be interested.

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BlackOwl18E September 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm

The Indians already got the MiG-29K. India's carrier and its aircraft are both made in Russia. They don't want the Super Hornet.

HeavyArrow September 18, 2012 at 8:01 am

Switzerland, Canada (Major operator), Finland, Spain, Malaysia…

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EJ257 September 18, 2012 at 10:57 am

Theses upgrades are just for the E/F/G. No one besides USN and Australia operate the Super Hornets.

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BlackOwl18E September 18, 2012 at 11:19 am

That is unless Canada and the other countries that operate the Legacy Hornet and planned on buying the F-35 decide to change their minds and acquire these upgrade Super Hornets.

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blight_ September 18, 2012 at 12:35 pm

That said, what was the original reason for the switch from Hornet to Super Hornets? Is something Hornet sized more viable with modern engines?

Praetorian September 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm

You got to throw Brazil in there. The Super Hornet is in the Running for thier new aircraft, although the Rafale is the favor at the moment.
If Brazil buys it could help pay for some of the upgrades for the Navy.

the_ginger September 18, 2012 at 12:02 am

Cool toy, but what happens when the electronics fail? I hope this thing leaves enough space for the analog instruments in the 18. Electronics are awesome, but ask anybody that's ever owned ANYTHING electronic, they all eventually break. Now, that said, I do think that this will be a vast improvement over the current display set up in the F-18, just seems like one more complicated and expensive thing to break

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Lagomorph September 18, 2012 at 5:28 am

With all the sensors they are bolting to the airframes, a Large Area Display will be needed on F18's, F16's and F15's or anything that's' going to be in the air until 2025.

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Nicky September 18, 2012 at 9:45 am

It's a step in the right direction and maybe it can reduce the pilots work load as well.

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Vaporhead September 18, 2012 at 11:11 am

I like this idea. It would be interesting to know the total cost of the F-35 program when all is said and done. That includes the costs of the services having to upgrade their existing weapons system because of F35 delays and overruns.

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Peter C September 18, 2012 at 9:53 pm

We just keep blowing money on toys that don’t work. Ref. F-22 is still not combat capable and no one is responsible.

Lets order another one that isn’t proven. Let’s call it Edsel. All decision makers in the Pentagon can buy their own and if they like it then we talk about it.

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Speedy September 18, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Mission log: Overflying Chinese fleet, got pinged a few times by their radar. Think that Chinese fighter tried to keep up for a while, till its engine flamed out. (<<Posting photo of Chinese pilot ejecting to facebook>>) … New screen is cool, watched "Iron Eagle" again on the way over… Touch screen works well with the "Finger dots" on my gloves, but updating the SOE while flying across from base sorta sucked. Global roaming sat/4G prices are too high to update my map app on the fly… Right, enough time for a game of "Angry Bird Teams" with my squadron till we get back to base.. Love the wifi on this screen…

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blight_ September 19, 2012 at 9:08 am

Considering we've been fed a line on how the Hornets are getting dumped to replace a Hornet/Super Hornet lineup with a JSF-A/Super Hornet lineup…shouldn't these displays still be on for the Navy?

It's a pity that a third party company doesn't design a "standard" display that can be plug-and-play with the rest of the fleet. It would save mfrs like Boeing a ton of design money and a unified standard means less errors and redesigns in the long run. It may also simplify logistics if you don't need to stock displays for multiple types and variants of aircraft.

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Dfens September 20, 2012 at 9:08 am

Good to see Gene Adam's dream of the big display in his fighter jet are still alive.

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Gene Adam October 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Dfens, I just woke up from a nap and saw my name, thanks.
All of those Big Picture briefings were started 32 years ago. The HMD took 30 years to get into an airplane, this 209 square inch display is getting close to a Big Picture, but there is still 130 square inches that the pilot needs for look ahead and a true TSD (Tactical Situation Display). 11'' inches is not enough vertical height because on a TSD the pilot is de-centered about 2.5 inches which gives a 8.5 inch look-ahead, only 2.5 inches more than 6'' RADAR displays. but with 10 X the data and 100 X the pixel count with a map. the HUD on the Head HMD free's up I.P.space for a 350 square inch display, the maximum possible and still marginal for excellent SA. At 83, I feel good, everything works and nothing hurts. Thanks again……..GA

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idahoguy101 September 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm

It’s comparing apples and oranges folks. These are two issues with the f-35 generation 5 versus an upgraded F/A-18 generation 4.5 combat aircraft. It’s not just the aircraft. It’s the pilot training proficiency!!! Proficiency takes time and mucho money spent in advanced tactical training.

An expert pilot in the upgraded F/A-18 generation 4.5 is very likely to kick a new generation 5.0 pilot’s butt into wreakage. Eventually as the generation 5 aircraft and pilot traing improves the advantage goes to him. But expect at least a ten year learnining curve for the PLA Navy if all goes well in making the new stealth Carrier aircraft safely operational.

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blight_ September 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm

You don't fly a F-22 "new". The pilots who are cleared to fly the -22's and presumably the JSF units will have acquired thousands of flight hours in legacy aircraft.

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Steven March 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Or a better upgrade to the Super Hornet is to make it REACH MACH 2 that's what we need. But this upgrade will make it be a deadly 4.5 Fighter.

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BlackOwl18E September 18, 2012 at 1:01 pm

The U.S. Navy wanted something that could replace a lot of the roles that aging aircraft did and they knew that they had to start planning ahead for when their current aircraft reached the end of their service lives. At first they decided to try replacing the attack aircraft role with the A-12 Avenger and the fighter role with Super Tomcat 21. However, the A-12 turned out to be a flop and had some corruption scandals. The Super Tomcat 21 was projected to be too complex and expensive. Upgrading the Hornet, which does both roles seemed like a good idea that was cheap and low risk, which turned out to be true. While the Navy was at it they figured that they might as well add some low observable tech, bigger size, more payload, more fuel, new systems, and other cool things. I guess the whole thing with the upgrades was that payload and range needed to be increased. The new upgrades take all of those increases in technology to a new level.

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Riceball September 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Don't forget that in most modern fighters if they lose electrical power they lose flight control as well due to being fly by wire.

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Chops September 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm

If I had my way you could have one for free,that way you Brits could get your carrier quals taken care of by the time your QE carriers enter service,but you have to buy 75 Super Hornets to get it.haha

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BlackOwl18E September 18, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I agree with that. It would be good for the Royal Navy's capabilities, good for our industry with the weapons purchases, and it's also economically reasonable considering that the U.K. defense budget is experiencing harsher defense cuts than we are.

It would also give them commonality with our forces since the Super Hornets could then operate on a single QE carrier if they outfitted it with a catapult.

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blight_ September 18, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I'm surprised Brazil isn't dying to line up for some F-35A action.

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STemplar September 19, 2012 at 1:08 am

Indias planned carriers are being built domestically not by Russia.

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STemplar September 19, 2012 at 6:06 am
Chops September 19, 2012 at 1:51 am

Refresh my memory if you could–Didn't the US offer India the Kittyhawk for free if they bought the 150 Super Hornets in their MMRCA contract?

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STemplar September 19, 2012 at 6:02 am

Gates poo pooed that rumor.

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