Raytheon to offer AESA radar for Seoul's F/A-50 fighter

Singapore
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Raytheon is offering an active electronically scanned array radar to South Korea for installation on the proposed Korea Aerospace Industries F/A-50 light fighter.

The Raytheon advanced combat radar (RACR) primarily targets the Lockheed Martin F-16 retrofit market. But company officials say that the F/A-50, which is based on the KAI/Lockheed T-50 advanced jet trainer derived from the US company's F-16, could also use the AESA radar to meet South Korean requirements.

"Given the commonalities between the T-50 and the F-16, we do not think that it would be a major problem to fit the RACR into the F/A-50. South Korea is keen to have an AESA radar for the F/A-50 and we could offer them a solution," a Raytheon official said during the Seoul air show in late October.

Northrop Grumman has also previously said that the F/A-50 could use a variant of its scaleable agile beam radar (SABR), which it is developing to compete with the RACR in the F-16 retrofit market.

Either option would suit KAI. The radar has been a bone of contention with Lockheed, which had wanted to sell its own APG-67(V)4. Seoul had preferred Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems' Vixen 500E, but is barred from sharing the T-50's source codes with non-US companies.

As a result, the first four F/A-50 test aircraft that will be produced under a development contract will use an EL/M-2032 radar supplied by Israel's Elta Systems, with the sensor to be installed by a US company to meet conditions set by Lockheed and Washington. Selecting the RACR or SABR systems would avert this problem for an expected follow-on production phase.

KAI says the first flight of an F/A-50 will be conducted by late August 2011, and the primary test sortie will be in September the same year. "These are the key target dates for the F/A-50. The preliminary design phase is under way and Lockheed is supporting us in the development work," says Kim Hyong Jun, KAI vice-president and general manager of the strategy and management planning department.

He adds that there will be an overlap between the development and production phases, and that there is likely to be a contract for between 12 and 20 aircraft before the F/A-50 achieves initial operational capability.

KAI expects the South Korean air force to place an order for 60 production examples, and to eventually buy up to 150 F/A-50s as replacements for its Northrop F-5s.