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How F/A-18s Work

        Science | Modern

Inside the Cockpit
The Hornets computers are designed to be very user-friendly. They assist aviators by handling a lot of the F/A-18’s needs freeing up the pilot to concentrate on his mission.
The Hornets computers are designed to be very user-friendly. They assist aviators by handling a lot of the F/A-18’s needs freeing up the pilot to concentrate on his mission.

The cockpit of the F/A-18 is loaded with advanced gadgetry. This equipment, together with the avionics software, provides the pilot with everything he needs to stay on top of things in even the hairiest situation. The interface for these features is laid out intuitively, allowing for the easiest operation possible. Some of these features include:

  • NAVFLIR
  • Hughes ATFLIR infrared radar pod
  • Raster heads-up display (HUD)
  • Night vision goggles
  • Special cockpit lighting for use with night vision
  • Digital color moving map
  • Independent multipurpose color display

The NAVFLIR or "Navigation Forward Looking Infrared" is a set of sensors that give the pilot a complete grasp of everything that is going on around him in the midst of a mission.

A SAR or synthetic aperture ground mapping radar uses a Doppler beam to provide the pilot with a real-time rendered map of what's going on below him. The pilot uses this system to stay aware of threats on the ground -- even if they are obscured by smoke or bad weather. This system also improves accuracy on bombing runs. In the event that he has to do some speedy maneuvering to avoid enemy fire, the pilot can make quick adjustments to his position on approach relative to the target.

When it was developed in 1976, the F/A-18 hornet became the first "digital" combat fighter.
When it was developed in 1976, the F/A-18 hornet became the first "digital" combat fighter.

The Hughes ATFLIR or Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infra-Red pod is used for navigation and targeting. Hornets use a laser target designator or ranger to deliver laser-guided bombs. The ATFLIR works seamlessly with all of the F/A-18's weapons systems to make target acquisition and destruction as easy as possible.

The Raster heads-up display puts all of these elements, as well as many other specific-to-flight conditions, together in one easy place for the pilot to see.

The F-18 cockpit puts all the control of this powerful war machine at the pilot’s finger tips.
The F-18 cockpit puts all the control of this powerful war machine at the pilot’s finger tips.

The F/A-18 is the first aircraft to incorporate a digital MUX bus architecture for the entire flight system. This architecture allows the computer controlling the aircraft to transfer data between systems quickly and more efficiently. As a result the F/A-18 can support the most advanced avionics software suite currently available.

This software, known as the digital control-by-wire flight control system, acts as a digital co-pilot in the Hornet. The advantages of this system are excellent computer-assisted handling qualities and maneuverability. This makes it easier for the pilot to concentrate on operating the weapons system during a mission.

A Naval Aviator trains on an F/A-18 Flight Simulator. The F/A-18 is known for being relatively easy to learn to fly.
A Naval Aviator trains on an F/A-18 Flight Simulator. The F/A-18 is known for being relatively easy to learn to fly.

The Hornet is famous among fighter pilots for its ability to remain evasive while still acquiring targets. It is also known for being relatively easy to learn to fly. This is all thanks to its advanced electronics. As an added bonus, upgrading a Hornet computer system is easy and inexpensive.