HUGHES AIRCRAFT IS developing improved navigation and targeting pods for the McDonnell Douglas F-18 which will incorporate a "third-generation" forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) sensor.

The US company says that the FLIR, which operates in the visible and mid-wavelength IR bands, will provide four times the range of the first-generation, long-wavelength, sensor now used for half the cost and weight.

Hughes has developed a staring IR sensor, using a focal-plane array of 640 x 480mm indium antimonide detectors. The sensor will be used in a mid-wavelength FLIR under development for the Bell Boeing V-22 and is to be flight-tested by the US Navy in an AAS-38 targeting pod for the F-18. An upgraded version of the F-18's AAS-50 navigation pod has also been proposed, Hughes says.

The privately developed third-generation FLIR is scheduled to enter production in 1998, just two years after the US Army-funded second-generation FLIR enters production. Hughes says that its FLIR outperforms first and second-generation systems in all environments.

Hughes is flight-testing, a commercial high-resolution synthetic-aperture radar (HISAR), on a Raytheon Beech King Air. The company says that the HISAR, expected to cost less than $4 million, is suitable for environmental-monitoring and border-surveillance missions. HISAR modes include wide-area search with moving-target indication, medium-resolution strip map, and 1.8m-resolution spot beam. Air-to-air and sea-surface detection and tracking modes are also provided.

Source: Flight International