A fourth generation of “mission” computer for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler has entered flight testing, paving the way for further capability upgrades including advanced cockpit displays.

The Type 4 advanced mission computer (AMC), which helps control the aircraft in combat, completed a 90-min. first flight in a U.S. Navy F/A-18F on Sept. 6 at Naval Air Station China Lake, Calif. A production decision is planned for the first quarter of 2013.

Supplied by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, the Type 4 AMC adds general-purpose and image processing capacity to support upgrades including large-area touchscreen cockpit displays.

Incorporation is planned for 2014, beginning with production Lot 37. So far the Type 4 AMC is planned for only new-production Navy aircraft, “but it will become the baseline for any international offering,” says Kevin Fogarty, Boeing director for F/A-18 and EA-18G mission systems.

The new computer has been proposed to Brazil, which has been offered a version of the Super Hornet equipped with the large-area display and associated low-profile head-up display , both to be supplied by Elbit Systems and its Brazilian subsidiary AEL Sistemas.

In addition to the advanced crew station, the Type 4 AMC will provide computing capacity for upgrades already planned by the U.S. Navy, including the distributed targeting system (DTS) and infrared search and track (IRST) sensor.

DTS produces accurate target coordinates by geo-registering sensor images with an onboard imagery database. The Harris-supplied system is scheduled to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) in January.

The Lockheed Martin-supplied IRST is a long-range passive air-to-air sensor mounted in the nose of an underfuselage fuel tank. The system is in development and IOC is scheduled for 2016.

Fogarty says the Type 4 AMC is also likely to be used with the Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) planned for the EA-18G.

The Navy intends to award a contract to begin development of the NGJ mid-band pod by June 2013, with IOC scheduled for 2020.

DTS , IRST and the Type 4 AMC are part of the Navy’s F/A-18 Flight Plan, which lays out the road map for future capability upgrades to the Super Hornet and Growler .

In April, in the first major activity under a Flight Plan cooperative research and development agreement, Boeing and the Navy flight tested a prototype distributed targeting system – networked, which has increased processing power and the ability to connect to advanced networks.