Boeing builds Super Hornet digital displays for possible 2015 upgrade

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.

22 Comments on "Boeing builds Super Hornet digital displays for possible 2015 upgrade"

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

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

  6. 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!

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

  8. 4FingersOfBourbon | September 17, 2012 at 6:57 pm |

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. “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.

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

  13. 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

  14. 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.

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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…

  19. 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.

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

  21. 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.

  22. 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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