Hornet Data Sheet
Follow-on Structural Test Project

Project Air 5376 The hornet upgrade program is finally under way at RAAF Williamtown. The programs main aim is to enhance the combat capability and survivability of the F/A-18 fleet to a standard where they can successfully complete their expected tasks through to their end of life of type some where around 2015.

Over the last 15 years or so the Hornet has been a very successful aircraft for the RAAF with no major problems arising. The Hornet has shown itself to be a very reliable aircraft unable to hide its origins off an aircraft carrier plane with that little bit of extra toughness built in. To this date the RAAF have only lost four aircraft out of the seventy five originally ordered a low attrition rate by anyone’s standard and a sign of the quality of maintenance these aircraft receive.

But time dose not stand still and the Hornet no longer has the technical edge over the newer generation of aircraft now moving into our region leaving the RAAF with only two choices on this one upgrade or replace. With no next generation aircraft being available in a reasonable time frame and with a over stretched defence budget the RAAF chose to upgrade.

The HUG project is split up into two main phases with phase 2 having a further two parts the phases are as follows

Phase one
Phase one prime contractor is Boeing (McDonnell Aircraft and Missiles) and will over see the installation of the following.
New ARC-210 UHF/VHF radios.
Combined Interrogator (CIT) replacing the IFF system.
Embedded GPS in the Inertial Navigation System (EGI).
Upgraded XN-8+ mission computers.
The addition of a sixth multiplex bus (MUXBUS) to support the avionics upgrade.
An interim EW software upgrade.
And the incorporation of wiring provisions for the Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACM) system to be used in conjunction with the Air Combat Training System at Delamere.
Some ground support equipment and training facility’s are to be upgraded as well to match the new aircraft standard.
All of this first phase is expected to be completed by late 2001.

Phase Two
Phase two prime contractor is again Boeing. This phase is split into two separate stages the first of which is to start immediately after the completion of phase one.
Stage one
This is to start immediately following the completion of phase one and involves the replacement of the original Hughes APG-65 radar with a new AN/APG-73 radar from Raytheon. This radar has miner performance improvements over the old but its main advantage is in its improved reliability and reduced maintenance. All aircraft are expected to have their new radars by the end of 2002.
Stage two
The remainder of phase two is still under planning, engineering & operational decision, and budget provision. So final specs and timing are still up in the air but it is planed to include the following.
Upgrade Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite (Radar Warning Receiver, RF Jammer, Counter Measures Dispenser).
Upgrade of Data Transfer System.
Colour Cockpit Horizontal Situation Indicator and Moving Map Systems and
Helmet Mounted Cueing System.
As well as the associated ground support equipment and training facility’s to match this new aircraft standard. All stage two work is expected to be completed by the end of 2006.

Air 5400 Air to Air Missiles.
As well as the above mentioned Hornet upgrade program the RAAF is acquiring two new Air to Air missiles for their Hornet fleet under project AIR 5400. The aim of this program is to provide a credible air to air weapons capability to and beyond the F/A-18 life of type. The air to air weapons capability comprises the provision of Within Visual Range (WVR) and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air to air missiles.

The BVR capability requirement is for an active radar guided BVR air to air missile with re-programmable electronic counter-counter-measures. To meet this requirement the department selected the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile manufactured by Raytheon. Operational and training missiles are scheduled to be delivered in 2001.
The WVR capability requirement is for a highly agile, large off-boresight, passive infra-red guided missile with re-programmable infra-red counter-counter-measures, which can be cued by a helmet mounted sight. the ASRAAM missile manufactured by Matra British Aerospace Dynamics was selected to fulfill this requirement. Operational and training missiles are scheduled to be delivered in 2001.All aircraft integration work for these new Missiles is to be done by the RAAF in Australia.

If all these upgrades are carried out on Australia's Hornet fleet the RAAF will have a very capable aircraft that should be able to meet Australia's needs till the end of its life expectance and if deployed with the support of the new AEW&C aircraft when they arrive would be a match for any aircraft in our region.

Follow-on Structural Test Project (IFOSTP)

In 1988, Australia and Canada agreed to conduct follow-on fatigue testing of the F/A-18 A/B Hornet because the use of the aircraft in Australian and Canadian service is different from that in US Navy service for which it was designed and tested by McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing). Australia committed to testing the rear fuselage and tail assembly while Canada was to test the centre fuselage and wings.

While the engines and electronics in an aircraft can be upgraded, the airframe reaches a point where it is no longer airworthy and is uneconomic to repair. A fatigue test such as the one carried out by DSTO helps to determine how long the aircraft can be kept flying safely before it can be retired.

The results of the fatigue tests will enable the RAAF to determine in advance where and when structural failures are likely to occur, what repair techniques to use and to plan for upgrades and modifications.

These proactive measures will extend the life the Hornet, now estimated at 4200 flying hours, to 5200 hours. This is an improvement of 25% which could save the Defence force over $1 billion.

The IFOSTP test is the most advanced full-scale fatigue test in the world. DSTO has developed and implemented a number of original technical features, some of which are currently the subject of commercialisation plans.

A complex steel structure (or test rig) was designed to replicate the stresses and strains that the Hornet experiences in flight. Specially developed air bags and electro-magnetic devices physically shake the aircraft to simulate the buffeting that affects the Hornet particularly severely.

The project's test rig is unique, and has been recognised by Boeing in a worldwide review as the best method available for accurately representing the forces caused by buffeting.

The fatigue test technology developed at DSTO has generated international interest from countries that also operate the F/A-18 A/B aircraft, such as the USA, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, Kuwait, Finland and Malaysia.

Scientists from NASA, the US Air Force and a private US company have also used the DSTO test rig to carry out new experiments which involved attaching ceramic actuators on the aircraft's tail fins to reduce the vibration levels.

(Defence media release)


Paul's RAAF base Williamtown page www.cust.idl.net.au/0999000010/paul/raaf.htm