“Stick me in this jet, and I’ll take her anywhere,” said a Royal Malaysian Air Force F/A-18D Hornet ‘driver’.”
The pilot’s confidence in the much-vaunted strike fighter’s ability to handle modern threats is due to the fact that the RMAF’s 20-year-old fleet recently underwent a comprehensive upgrade that gives it an even more lethal “sting”. The best just got better.
The programme, carried out in phases, was to enhance the Hornet’s combat effectiveness in its primary tasking in the air-to-air and air-to-ground roles.
This included the integration of four primary elements — Boeing’s Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS), the super-agile, thrust-vectoring AIM-9X Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile, Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance kits for the GBU-31, -32, -38 and -54 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) “smart” bombs, and the Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pods for the strike mission.
Air force chief General Datuk Seri Affendi Buang told the New Straits Times that the upgrades had given RMAF Hornets a “quantum leap in capability”.
“The upgrades will ensure the Hornet’s dominance in the modern battle space against a broad spectrum of airborne and surface threats for years to come,” said Affendi, who added that the upgrades put RMAF’s Hornets on par with Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block 1.
On Nov 28, 2011, Boeing was awarded a firm-fixed price order for “Engineering Change Proposal 618” (ECP 618) kits for all RMAF Hornets under the United States’ Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. The contract included training for ECP 618 and ECP 624, and the installation of other systems that made up the Malaysian upgrade.
Initial work was done at the Boeing plant in St Louis, Missouri, while subsequent airframes were modded at 18 Squadron’s home base — the “Hornet’s Nest” — in RMAF Butterworth. Work on the last airframe was completed in April 2015. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the New Straits Times website.