Meanwhile, AESA work will enable USAF fighter to share ISR data with other platforms
Lockheed Martin has begun work on enabling the US Air Force's F-22A Raptor to use its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar as a wideband datalink, allowing the stealthy fighter to share intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) sensor information with other platforms.
The USA is moving to exploit its lead in AESA technology, and the F-22's Northrop Grumman APG-77(V)1 radar is scheduled to get an electronic attack capability as part of the Increment 3.2 upgrade to be funded from fiscal year 2012. An "in-band" electronic attack capability for the Raytheon APG-79 AESA in US Navy Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets is to be funded from FY2008.
Raytheon says its AESA upgrade for the Boeing F-15 has already demonstrated in-band electronic attack capability in USAF flight tests, and the company has demonstrated the wideband ISR datalink using its own testbed aircraft. Raytheon is under contract to develop the radar common datalink (R-CDL) standard, providing 274Mb/s bandwidth and allowing the AESA to send and receive synthetic-aperture radar images.
Lockheed has received a $9.7 million US Air Force Laboratory contract to demonstrate non-traditional ISR capability and operating concepts for the F-22 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter using AESA and R-CDL. Laboratory and flight tests are expected to lead to an operational demonstration during an annual Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment. The effort is to be completed by early 2012.
Larry Lawson, Lockheed F-22 programme manager, says: "We are in the early stages." Boeing director F-18 programme integration Kory Mathews says F/A-18E/F wideband ISR datalink capability is not yet planned, but the Super Hornet will be first to get an in-band electronic attack capability.
The USAF, meanwhile, has included both F-15C/D and F-15E AESA radar upgrades in its FY2008 budget request. The service plans to retrofit 178 F-15C/Ds with Raytheon's APG-63(V)3 AESA, and the company will offer the improved APG-63(V)4 for the F-15E upgrade to begin in FY2010.
Although the (V)3 is primarily an air-to-air radar, Raytheon says it is capable of being upgraded via software to provide in-band electronic attack and wideband ISR datalink capabilities. The air-to-air/air-to-ground (V)4, meanwhile, will use the higher-throughput "back end" from the Super Hornet's APG-79.
Source: Flight International