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Raytheon, Northrop fight for F/A-18C/D AESA radar upgrade

A two-way competition has started to fill a sudden requirement to replace mechanically-scanned Raytheon APG-73 radars on seven squadrons of US Marine Corps Boeing F/A-18C/Ds.

Raytheon and Northrop Grumman plan to respond to a request for proposals issued by the Marines within the last two weeks with active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs).

Raytheon confirmed it performed a fit check in June of an APG-79(V)4 radar that the company designed for F/A-18C/D, or “legacy Hornet”, fleet a decade ago in anticipation of this requirement.

The fit check was performed within five weeks of a request by the USMC, says Michael Garcia, a director of business development for Raytheon.

Northrop Grumman declines to say whether the company performed a similar demonstration with the Scaleable Agile Beam Radar (SABR), saying that details of its preparations are too sensitive to release during a competition.

For Northrop, the Marine requirement offers a rare opportunity to replace a Raytheon-made, mechanically-scanned radar with the company’s AESA technology.

Unlike competitions to upgrade the Raytheon-made radar in the Boeing F-15 or Northrop-built radars in foreign Lockheed Martin F-16s, the final decision will be made by a military service instead of the contractor.

For almost a decade, Raytheon has pursued the APG-73 replacement for Marines’ F/A-18C/Ds, but the service’s support for the plan has fluctuated over the years. The company performed a similar fit check in 2010 on an F/A-18 with a radar previously designated as APG-79(VX). The company proposed it again in 2014, but the USMC’s interest evaporated.

The APG-73 replacement did not appear in the official 2018 Marine Aviation Plan, a long-term acquisition strategy released by the USMC late last year.

But the Marines released a request for information for the APG-73 replacement in March. The service now plans to modify 88 F/A-18C/Ds with an AESA radar, starting in the fourth quarter of 2020 and ending in 2022.

Despite the newly-funded upgrade, Marines still expect to retire the F/A-18C/D fleet around 2030.

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