Northrop offers South Korea M-scan radar for F-16s

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Northrop Grumman is proposing a mechanically scanned radar for an F-16 upgrade programme in South Korea, marking a shift in its strategy for the emerging requirement.

The company had previously been focused on selling a new active electronically scanned array named the scaleable agile beam radar (SABR). But now, Northrop believes the Republic of Korea Air Force's needs instead call for its mechanically scanned APG-68(V)9 design.

"I think the (V)9 would suit their purposes really well," says Dave Wallace, Northrop's manager for F-16 sensor programmes. Similar to the AESA-based SABR, the design provides both synthetic aperture radar (SAR) maps and ground moving target indication imagery, which are key capabilities for launching attacks on ground targets.

Mechanically scanned arrays have lost favour due to the introduction of AESA radars over the last decade. For example, the United Arab Emirates launched the Northrop APG-80 agile beam radar with its Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60 fighters.

"AESA is the buzz phrase. It is very reliable. It does more than you can get with a mechanically scanned radar," Wallace says. "That said, the performance I've observed on the APG-68(V)9 is very good." Greece and Israel jointly launched the (V)9 upgrade programme about a decade ago.

Northrop's proposal now faces competition from the AESA-based Raytheon advanced combat radar, or RACR.