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Northrop Grumman’s SABR wins USAF F-16 AESA upgrade bid

Lockheed Martin has selected Northrop Grumman's Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) for the US Air Force's F-16 upgrade programme. The service had delegated the decision on selecting between the SABR and the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) to Lockheed last year.

"SABR will provide F-16s unprecedented operational capability, greater reliability and viability in threat environments beyond 2025," says Joe Ensor, vice-president of Northrop's targeting systems division. The new sensor will also be installed on upgraded F-16s for Taiwan, as a result of the selection.

 

US Air Force

The new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar will allow for much greater air-to-air detection ranges, high-resolution synthetic aperture radar mapping and automatic target recognition. It will also allow pilots to simultaneously operate air-to-air and air-to-ground modes and other functions.

The SABR draws much of its technology from Northrop's APG-77 and APG-81 radars, found respectively on the Lockheed F-22 Raptor and F-35. As such, it shares much of the software and interfaces found on those systems.

Because the USAF classifies the F-16 radar upgrade as contractor-furnished equipment, Raytheon does not have the option of protesting the selection to the US Government Accountability Office, even if it were so inclined.

"We look forward to meeting with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to better understand the selection decision," says Raytheon, which adds: "we stand behind our combat-proven AESA radar technology. RACR is affordable, low-risk, exportable and production-ready."

South Korea earlier this year selected the RACR as part of an F-16 fleet modernisation effort being led by BAE Systems, with the Lockheed decision for the USAF and Taiwan creating parallel upgrade paths for the type worldwide.

"We will continue pursuing other international opportunities, building on our partnership with BAE as we modernise South Korea's KF-16 fleet," Raytheon says.

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