The US Air Force has released a pre-solicitation notice for new radars for a portion of its Lockheed Martin F-16 fleet.

"The intent of this pre-solicitation notice is to inform interested parties, including the vendor community, about potential opportunities related to the [radar modernisation programme]," the notice reads. "Additionally, the USAF's intent is to provide interested parties with key information that will assist in planning and preparation."

The USAF is looking for a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to upgrade about 350 later model F-16s as a stop-gap until Lockheed's stealthy F-35 can be built in numbers. Air force leaders say that the service was forced to proceed with the extensive modernisation of the existing fighter fleet due to repeated delays in procuring the new type.

 USAF F-16 - US DoD

© US Department of Defense

USAF chief of staff Gen Norton Schwartz reaffirmed on 20 March that the service will not buy more new fourth-generation fighters like the F-16 because they would stay in the inventory as long as a new fifth-generation fighter but would be long obsolete by then.

The notice says that the requirements for the new radar will be finalised and approved in the coming weeks. The air force has been studying the problem since last year.

There are two rival AESA systems that the USAF might buy for its Block 40/42 and 50/52 F-16s. One is Northrop Grumman's scalable agile beam radar; the other the Raytheon advanced combat radar. A draft request for proposal for the new radar might be released as soon as June 2012.

Lockheed is also already working on evaluating how to extend the F-16's airframe life.

Source: Flight International