Aerospace and defence conglomerate Raytheon Technologies will install the comapny’s latest active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar in the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 light fighter aircraft.

Raytheon said on 15 May its PhantomStrike gallium nitride-powered system has been approved for export to Seoul as a direct commercial sale – bypassing the more cumbersome Foreign Military Sales process – for use on the FA-50.


Source: Korea Aerospace Industries

Korea Aerospace Industries plans to sell FA-50s to Poland and Malaysia in the near future

“Outfitting the FA-50 with the PhantomStrike radar upgrades the capability of a critical aircraft, providing unparalleled performance in a compact, affordable package,” says Annabel Flores, president of global spectrum dominance at Raytheon.

The jets will remain “fast, agile and easy to maintain”, she adds.

FlightGlobal understands that PhantomStrike will be part of Poland’s acquisition of 48 FA-50s. 

Raytheon describes the PhantomStrike as a “first-of-its-kind” radar, that is smaller, lighter and requires less power than other AESA systems. In addition to fixed-wing fighters, the PhantomStrike can be fitted on helicopters, uncrewed aerial vehicles and ground infrastructure, according to its manufacturer.

In general, AESAs are far more capable than older fire control radars. The advanced radar system allows pilots to “detect, target, identify, and engage across a spectrum of threats at longer ranges and react with greater precision”, according to the US Air Force, which is currently modernising its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16 multi-role fighters with a Northrop Grumman AESA.

Among their improvements, AESA radars allow a single fighter to track and target far more hostile craft than previously possible.

“With the AESA radar… I can target more things than I can shoot,” said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Trujillo, an F-16 pilot with the Washington DC Air National Guard, in March.

Trujillo, whose squadron received the Northrop AESA, noted the F-16’s previous radar system was “completely saturated” after acquiring two targets.

Raytheon says its PhantomStrike will provide a host of performance improvements to the FA-50, including digital beam forming and steering, multi-mode functionality and interleaved ground and air targeting. The company plans to begin delivering the first PhantomStrike systems to South Korea in 2025.

While the the FA-50 can be used in a flight training role, it is also capable of operating as a light combat fighter. Poland sees the the FA-50 as a means of quickly modernising its fleet while awaiting the delivery of fifth-generation Lockheed F-35s starting in 2024.

Malaysia also selected the FA-50 in February to be its new jet trainer and light combat fighter. Kuala Lumpur plans to acquire up to 36 aircraft.

Elsewhere, the type is currently operated by South Korea and the Philippines, according to Cirium figures.

Updated with Poland’s decision to obtain PhantomStrike with its FA-50s.