FARNBOROUGH 2008: Raytheon unveils RACR for front-line fighter radar upgrade

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Raytheon is unveiling a redesigned and rebranded version of an active electronically scanned array first made public almost a year ago.

The new Raytheon advanced combat radar (RACR) is aimed at largely the same market niche as the company's preceding concept, but has been redesigned to simplify the installation process for several types of new and older fighters.

Unlike the previously dubbed Raytheon active next generation radar (RANGR), RACR is designed for near-seamless installation on Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 30/40/50s, says Wes Motooka, Raytheon vice-president, international. "It requires more effort to get down to the [F-16] Block 20 and 25s," he says.

The design changes also expand the new AESA's candidate platforms to include the oldest Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The first of the 125 fighters were delivered without provisions for the later upgrade to the Raytheon APG-79 AESA, and the RACR is intended to fill that retrofit requirement. "To put an AESA system in those aircraft just makes sense," Motooka says.

RACR is also intended for the export market, and will compete with Northrop Grumman's scaleable agile beam radar (SABR); a new version of the ABR developed for the United Arab Emirates's F-16E/F Block 60s.

AESA technology has been introduced to increase combat radius by two to three times, and improve reliability by up to fivefold.

The increasing competitiveness of AESA technology is offering a new level of options for military customers. Previously, engines were the only core component of a fighter aircraft that were competed. Radars were almost always offered as a standard feature.

That changed with the US Air Force's requirement to upgrade the Boeing F-15E radar. Northrop proposed the APG-81 developed for the Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but the USAF selected the Raytheon APG-63(V)3 system.

Now, the manufacturers are poised to compete for an emerging requirement to retrofit hundreds of older F-16s, F/A-18s and other types with AESA technology.