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The requirements for military and civil aircraft are pretty different, so this possibly applies to their autopilots. Are they different in the way they function or capabilities that they are programmed with?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you're question is too wide, since there are hundreds of different types, who could know them all? On the military aircraft I have worked on, the autopilots did not have any special functions and, on some models, were the same as fitted to civilian aircraft. $\endgroup$ – Simon May 29 '15 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ What I mean is something general.. Like, a fighter jet is mostly at supersonic speeds and thus it is required to be faster.. Whereas, a civil autopilot has to control a greater number of equipments and is likely to get more time in case of some emergency. $\endgroup$ – anshabhi May 29 '15 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ An autopilot controls the flying controls - "civil autopilot has to control a greater number of equipments". What do you mean? They all have the same control surfaces. Do you understand that the autopilot does speed, heading, position and altitude? It does not control everything on the aircraft.. $\endgroup$ – Simon May 29 '15 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ @anshabhi fighter jets are rarely supersonic, super cruise withstanding, its much to inefficient to keep the burners lit and cruise above 1.0. $\endgroup$ – Rhino Driver May 30 '15 at 2:42
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There is no civillian autopilot for an F-16, because there are no non-military F-16s. Ditto with the F-117 or or B-1 or B-2, so who knows what unique modes those autopilots have for their uniquely military missions (i.e. dropping bombs or low level terrain following). However, when the military aircraft has a non-military equivalent (KC-10/DC-10, KC-135/B707, C-40/T-43/B737, C-21/Learjet, T-44/C-12/KingAir, etc) then the autopilots are generally identical.

Any differences are more likely to be found in FMC software rather than in the Autopilot, and those differences would be very specific to each aircraft & its mission.

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    $\begingroup$ Caveat - only worked on 2 aircraft with terrain following and on both, the terrain following RADAR took over from the autopilot, overriding input commands to it. The reason is simply that you cannot tell an autopilot to maintain 300 feet but please climb a bit to avoid the hills. Bomb dropping was also controlled by systems other than the autopilot. Never seen an auto pilot that does more than speed, height, heading, vertical speed etc, $\endgroup$ – Simon May 29 '15 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon. Good point... There is just no civillian analog to those sorts of things... Modes, interfaces, and the whole architecture are just different with those sorts of missions - no civil counterpart. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J May 29 '15 at 16:20
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The autopilot in the super hornet is inferior to what you'd find in a typical Southwest flight. It's got a heading hold, waypoint couple, baroalt hold and auto throttles, but none of them are linked together and all operate independently of each other. There is no vertical speed hold, and no FMS to tie it all together. The one thing it has is autotrim, but then again, so does the average Airbus.

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