SINGAPORE: Northrop Grumman ups ante in regional AESA battle

Singapore
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Northrop Grumman has received updated licences that will help it conduct more detailed discussions about its Active Electronically Scanned Array radar with Taiwan and South Korea.

"We have received updated licences for the latest SABR [Scalable Agile Beam Radar] offering for the ongoing competition in Korea and Taiwan," said Joe Ensor, vice president and general manager, ISR and targeting systems division. "Since Singapore 2010 we have validated additional performance capabilities and had a significant number of additional flight hours, including side-by-side testing with the [F-35's] APG-81. These results have led to an updated licence with our newest technology."

The Northrop Grumman news raises the stakes in the massive Lockheed Martin F-16 upgrade market. A total of 26 countries operate F-16s, with thousands of these aircraft possible upgrade candidates. The clearance allows the company to discuss SABR in great detail with Seoul and Taipei, as well as share data.

SABR's rival in the AESA upgrade market is the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar. Northrop Grumman has provided all radars for the F-16 throughout the programme's four decade history.

An AESA upgrade would be a tremendous capability improvement for the F-16, allowing it to track far more targets at much greater ranges. Many radar warning receivers have a difficult time detecting radar beams from AESA radars, and AESA radars have no moving parts, making them far easier to maintain.

At the Singapore air show, both Raytheon and Northrop Grumman stressed the ease with which their systems can be installed on a legacy F-16, with the installation taking no more than one to three days.

Raytheon AESAs equip several variants of the Boeing F-15, as well as the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. Northrop Grumman AESAs equip the F-22 and F-35. United Arab Emirates F-16 Block 60 aircraft have Northrop Grumman's AN/APG-80 AESA radar, but this radar is not compatible for refitting to legacy F-16s.