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F/A-18 Hornet strike capability to get major boost.

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Media contacts Catherine Fitzpatrick (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7800 0405 351 245

Defence Media Liaison 02 6265 3343 0408 498 664

MEDIA RELEASE SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate


Wednesday, 14 July 2004 137/2004


Australia’s F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft will be equipped with state-of-the-art target designation systems, under a project worth more than $100 million that was approved by the Government today.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said the systems were a vital part of the Hornet’s weapons suite.

“The target designation systems will improve the detection, identification, precision targeting and damage assessment phases of F/A-18 strike and offensive air support operations,” Senator Hill said.

“This means the aircraft will be better equipped to detect and attack targets by day or night, increasing their operational effectiveness and reducing risk to aircraft and crew.”

The project will equip the Hornets with a proven, self-contained, current generation targeting and laser designation system - upgrading the current Nite Hawk Forward Looking Infra-red pod with state-of-the-art technology.

Defence will assess three systems: the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infra-Red (ATFLIR) pod manufactured by Raytheon, the Pantera pod manufactured by Lockheed Martin, and the Litening AT pod manufactured by RAFAEL and Northrop Grumman.

“The pods produce an image of the target area (similar to a black and white television picture) on a screen in the cockpit. The pilot is able to use this image to exactly designate the desired target, to maximise accuracy and minimise collateral damage. The pods also include a laser system, allowing for the employment of precision laser guided bombs.”

Senator Hill said Defence would release a restricted Request for Tender to the makers of suitable target designation systems. After assessment of the responses, a decision on the preferred replacement will be made next year. The first squadron is expected to be equipped with the new system by early 2007.

“This project is one of a number of planned upgrades to the Hornet aircraft that will ensure the potent strike capability of our fighter fleet,” Senator Hill said.