The US Navy has moved forward with plans to retrofit active radars on the bulk of its older-model Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets.

Raytheon has received a contract worth nearly $55 million to deliver 19 APG-79 active electronically scanned arrays after an approximately 18-month wait, says David Goold, its director of F/A-18 strategy and business development. The total number of retrofitted aircraft could eventually total 135, but the actual number ordered per year will be negotiated on an annual basis, he adds.

The figure of 135 excludes the first two annual lots of Super Hornets delivered to the USN, which are expected to continue to operate mechanically scanned APG-73 radars.

But the first order adds to the navy's overall plan to buy 415 radars to equip all Super Hornets and its EA-18G Growler electronic-attack fleet. The Royal Australian Air Force has also placed an order for 24 F/A-18Fs, all equipped with the APG-79.

The USN plans to deploy the first AESA-equipped F/A-18 squadron later this year. Raytheon intends to soon release the delayed H4 block of software code, which is needed to correct instability issues identified during operational testing, where the radar's capability was described as "dazzling" when operational, but sometimes frustrating.

The deployment will mark the combat debut for a wave of AESA technology developed and tested over the past decade. The US Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor features the Northrop Grumman APG-77 AESA, but the fighter has not yet served in battle since becoming operational in late 2006.

Source: Flight International