The US Air Force has declared that the Northrop Grumman APG-83 scalable agile beam radar has met full operational readiness for use on the Air National Guard’s Lockheed Martin F-16s.

The active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire control radar is intended to help fighters with homeland defence missions for US Northern Command, which is tasked with defending air, land and sea approaches – out to about 500nm (926km) – of the continental USA, Alaska, Canada and Mexico.

Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 radar being installed in an Air National Guard’s F-16 at Joint Base Andrews Maryland

Source: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 radar being installed in an Air National Guard F-16 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland

The first radar was installed on an Air National Guard F-16 in January and the upgrade programme is ongoing.

“[Scalable agile beam radar] enables F-16 pilots to detect, track, identify and target a greater number of threats faster and at longer ranges from outside the threat envelope,” Mark Rossi, Northrop’s director of the scalable agile beam radar programme, said on 15 October. “This upgrade will keep the multi-role F-16 fighter relevant and capable for decades to come.”

The APG-83 is higher-resolution than previous radars on the F-16, which enables more-precise target identification and strike, even in poor weather conditions, says Northrop. The radar also has a longer, yet undisclosed, target detection and tracking range than older systems, the company says. In addition to aerial targets, the sensor can track fixed and moving ground and sea targets.

Northrop claims that the APG-83 has three- to five-times greater reliability and availability than currently used systems.

The new radar will replace mechanically-steered radars on F-16s. AESA radars can more-rapidly sweep the horizon for targets, potentially allowing fighter pilots to detect and fire upon adversaries faster.

Some of the capabilities of the APG-83 are borrowed from the Lockheed F-22’s APG-77 and F-35’s APG-81. Both of those AESA radars are made by Northrop. The company claims the shared components, and design and manufacturing processes, makes the APG-83 less expensive.