Eight units scheduled for installation on Block2 Super Hornets by mid-year
Raytheon has delivered the first production APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar for installation on the Block 2 upgrade variant of Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, due for delivery to the US Navy in April.
The unit is the first of eight radars set to be provided to the F/A-18E/F production line in St Louis, Missouri by July 2005 under a low-rate initial production (LRIP 1) contract. A further 12 are due under LRIP 2, between July and June 2006. "We're anticipating the signing in the near term of LRIP 3 for the delivery of 22 additional radars by July 2007," says Raytheon APG-79 engineering and manufacturing development programme manager Bill Gardner.
The fourth production batch, a milestone decision on which is due next December, will cover a further 42 radars. Follow-on contracts will cover further full-rate production at the same rate of 42 a year until 415 radars have been delivered, 135 of them for retrofit to existing F/A-18E/Fs from 2007-10.
The newly delivered radar will join the AESA test effort at China Lake, California, where evaluations have been under way since July 2003 using a single F/A-18E and latterly a pair of two-seat, early Lot 26 F models. Tests to date have proved up to five times the reliability of the mechanically scanned APG-73 radar that the AESA unit will replace. Air-to-air detection ranges have also been demonstrated at more than three times those of the APG-73 during tests of the advanced radar, which has the ability to operate virtually simultaneously in both air-to-air and air-to-ground modes.
Integrated test and evaluation is scheduled to begin in November, following the completion of expanded operational test work in March and April. Operational evaluation, using at least six of the eight initial Lot 27 AESA-equipped aircraft, is expected to start by fleet evaluation pilots around February, with initial operational capability (IOC) due in late September 2006. The radars due for delivery in LRIP 2 will be used to supply the IOC squadron, says Gardner.
GUY NORRIS / LOS ANGELES
Source: Flight International