Monday, July 9, 2007

Generation 4.5 (1990-Present)

This half-generation has been coined to describe the next generation of fighters in service, marked by a stagnation of aerodynamic technologies (compared with the boom of the third-generation) matched with a tremendous advance in avionics and other flight electronics, as a result of applying the advances made in microchip and semiconductor technology in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as limited stealth shaping made possible with supercomputers. A prime example of this generation is the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, based on the 1970s Hornet design. While the basic aerodynamic features remain the same, the Super Hornet features improved avionics in the form of an all-glass cockpit, a solid-state AESA fixed-array radar, new engines, the structural use of composite materials to reduce weight, and a slightly modified shape to minimize its radar signature. Of these, only the Super Hornet and the Rafale have seen combat action.

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