Australia confirms AIM-9X selection for Super Hornets

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Australia has confirmed that its Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet acquisition will include the purchase of the Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile, and potentially also Raytheon's ATFLIR targeting pod.

"We are going to go with the US Navy-common AIM-9X," says Gp Capt Stan Roberton, head of Australia's Super Hornet programme office.

"We are very happy with [MBDA's] ASRAAM and the capability that is bringing to our legacy [F/A-18A/B] Hornets, but the driver is to stay USN-common with the weapons and keep this a very low risk but high-end capability."

Decisions on whether Australia's planned fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters will be fitted for AIM-9X rather than ASRAAM are still to be made, with trade studies continuing. "We are still considering AIM-9X and ASRAAM," said Air Vice Marshal John Harvey, head of Australia's JSF acquisition programme office, speaking during last week's Australian International Air Show at Avalon, near Melbourne.

Noting that the Super Hornet will be acquired with the AIM-9X, Harvey said: "We also see some advantages in ASRAAM, potentially with longer range than AIM-9X, and are trying to work out how that would fit in the mix for JSF."

Roberton said no decision has been made on whether to integrate the Royal Australian Air Force's new Lockheed Martin AGM-158 JASSM cruise missiles with the Super Hornet fleet, which will enter service from early 2010 (Flight International, 13-19 March).

The move will be considered by early next year as part of a broader strike study for the Australian Defence Force, but Roberton said the Super Hornet/JASSM combination "is not unlikely".

The RAAF has already conducted initial cost studies through the USN, he said, while Lockheed confirmed that it has discussed the integration effort with Australian defence authorities.

The need to maintain commonality with USN Super Hornets could also prompt the RAAF to equip its 24 aircraft with the ATFLIR targeting pod, despite having previously selected Northrop Grumman to supply its current F/A-18A/Bs with the Litening II system.