Northrop Grumman is designing a new active array radar for the Lockheed Martin F-16, as the company seeks to defend its suddenly vulnerable monopoly on the fighter's main sensor equipment.

Northrop currently supplies the mechanically scanned APG-68 and the APG-80 agile beam radar for US and foreign F-16 customers, but its four-decade-old lock on the market has recently come under attack.

In July, Raytheon disclosed plans to offer a scaled-down version of the APG-79 active electronically scanned array, with the so-called Raytheon Next Generation Radar aimed at the single-engine fighter market, including the F-16, Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed T/A-50 and Saab Gripen (Flight International, 24-40 July).

Northrop will not leave Raytheon's advance unchecked, and is designing a lightweight, thin-array system to replace the APG-68's mechanically scanned arrays, says James Pitts, president of its electronic systems sector.

Pitts says the F-16 retrofit package is being designed to require no "group-A", or structural or wiring, modifications to the aircraft. The upgraded radar will include its own liquid-cooling heat exchanger that fits within the available space, he adds.

Lockheed officials have previously confirmed that they expect the US Air Force to eventually upgrade the F-16 radar to the AESA standard, and welcome a budding competition between Northrop and Raytheon. Pitts also foresees the USAF as a potential customer, but views the export market as the most likely source of a launch order.

Source: Flight International