Raytheon studies light fighter radar
Raytheon has disclosed plans to offer a new radar for single-engined fighters such as the Lockheed Martin F-16 - a move aimed at potential new fighter sales to foreign customers and, in the long term, retrofits for the US Air Force fleet.
The Raytheon Next Generation Radar (RANGR) is a repackaging of the dual-mode APG-79 active electronically scanned array for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, with an aperture cut to fit within the radomes of the F-16, Saab Gripen and Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed A-50.
"While it currently has not been physically demonstrated on the F-16, we have conducted feasibility studies to determine this would be possible at an appropriate time," says Raytheon.
RANGR is a direct challenge to Northrop Grumman's four-decade grip on F-16 radar technology, with the APG-68 family of radars and the APG-80 agile beam radar for the Block 60 fleet delivered to the United Arab Emirates.
Lockheed welcomes the developing competition for F-16 radar sales - it already fosters competitive bidding by engine and avionics suppliers. Northrop's long experience with the F-16 radar may be no advantage if Raytheon can produce a viable alternative.
"Northrop has a pretty solid base here, but, frankly, that doesn't mean anything," says Bill McHenry, Lockheed's business development director for the F-16. McHenry says that Northrop, in response, has "a lot of innovative ideas as well, relative to a general improvement of their radar".
Northrop says: "We continue to extend the technology and capability of F-16 radars. This includes AESA radars for F-16 production and retrofits for both foreign and domestic users."
Foreign fighter buyers, such as India, are believed to be seeking AESA technology, and the USAF may develop a requirement to retrofit F-16s to extend their viability in operational service.
RANGR emerges amid growing upheaval in the AESA supplier market. As Raytheon targets a long-term Northrop customer with the F-16, the latter is seeking to unseat Raytheon's sole-source status on Boeing's F-15.
For a USAF requirement to retrofit F-15Es with AESA, Northrop plans to offer the APG-81 in development for the Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Raytheon is offering a new version of the F-15's current APG-63 that combines a new active array with a radar processor developed for the Super Hornet's APG-79.
On 18 July, the US Navy approved full-rate production of the dual-mode APG-79, which is expected to make its debut deployment with F/A-18E/F squadrons in the second quarter of next year.