Boeing gained a $135 million contract to add the Lockheed Martin infrared search and track (IRST) system to the U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet by 2015. According to Lockheed Martin, the long-wave system can detect airborne threats with 40 times more accuracy than radar at maximum detection ranges, while offering a comparable scan volume. The sensor will be carried at the front of the Super Hornet’s centerline fuel tank, a “cost effective location” according to Boeing. This installation was first demonstrated on a Super Hornet test aircraft at NAS Patuxent River in 2009.
The IRST is a new-generation version of the AAS-42 that was carried by the now-retired U.S. Navy F-14D Tomcat. Because they are passive systems, IRSTs feature prominently as part of the sensor system on fourth-generation European and Russian fighters. The Lockheed Martin IRST forms part of the sensor suite on the F-15K and F-15SG Strike Eagles sold to Korea and Singapore, and is also being added to U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagles. For potential international F/A-18E/F customers, Boeing is offering a chin-mounted version of the IRST.