The U.S. strategic tilt toward the Asia Pacific region plays to Raytheon Co.’s strength in active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a key technology being used and sought by countries in the region to enhance the capabilities of their legacy fourth-generation fighters.
Under the new strategic guidance announced by President Barack Obama on January 5, the U.S. military will “of necessity rebalance” toward the Asia Pacific region using its own power, emphasizing existing alliances and cultivating new partners to meet the challenge posed by China’s emergence as a regional power.
“It was very gratifying to see the U.S. defense policy now moving to focus more and more on Asia Pacific,” said Jim Hvizd, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems vice president for international business development and strategy. “We have seen over the years that this is an area where we have become a trusted ally and we need to maintain those relationships. From a product standpoint, we look at the region as somebody we’ve known for a long time and have sat together and worked to solve their urgent operational needs.”
Electronically steered AESA radar, offering a vast improvement in range, resolution and reliability over older, mechanically steered systems, is a technology deployed by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) on its Boeing F-15SGs, fitted with Raytheon’s APG-63(v)3 AESA radar.
More recently, the company fielded questions from Singapore about the RSAF’s F-16C/Ds, which would be candidates for the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR), a retrofit offering for the F-16. “They have started to discuss some upgrades to their F-16 fleet,” said Hvizd. “We’ve been able to provide them some high-level briefings.”
Raytheon (Booth U07) is teamed with Boeing in offering the F-15 Silent Eagle with stealth features for South Korea’s 60-aircraft FX-III requirement. Other contenders are the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Eurofighter Typhoon. Raytheon already provides the AN/APG-63(V)1 multi-mode radar for South Korea’s existing F-15Ks–the F-15SEs would be fitted with the APG-63(v)3 AESA radar. A request for proposals was expected in early 2012, with a selection by year-end, Hvizd said.
South Korea also plans to upgrade up to 134 Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries KF-16C/Ds with AESA radar. Raytheon will offer its RACR through the foreign military sales process, competing against Northrop Grumman’s Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) AESA radar.
In October, the Obama administration decided against selling new F-16s to Taiwan, proposing instead to upgrade 145 older F-16A/Bs with AESA radar, embedded GPS/inertial navigation, joint helmet-mounted cueing system, new armament and other features. The requirement again pits Raytheon’s RACR against Northrop Grumman’s SABR.
Hvizd said the requirement continues to be negotiated between the U.S. and Taiwan, which in January saw the reelection of President Ma Ying-jeou to a second term. “Once both parties have agreed on the scope of the offer, we expect to get guidance from the U.S. government on how that will proceed,” Hvizd said. “It’s some months off. We’re answering any questions the U.S. government may come up with, and we’re ready to engage.”
Another country in the region–Malaysia–reportedly is seeking 18 aircraft to replace a similar number of MiG-29s in 2015 and 2016. Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet is considered a contender. The Royal Australian Air Force has ordered 24 F/A-18Fs equipped with Raytheon’s AN/APG-79 AESA radar.
Hvizd said Raytheon has delivered more than 300 AESA radars to the U.S. military and foreign customers for the F-15 and F-18. Its manufacturing facility in Forest, Mississippi, now produces up to six radars a month, and is capable of doubling that rate.
The company would have provided the AESA radar on the Super Hornet offered for Japan’s F-X requirement, which went instead to the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-81 radar. Nevertheless, Raytheon is the prevailing AESA provider in the Asia Pacific region, Hvizd said. “We understand their requirements and interoperability needs with the U.S. war-fighting capability, and we’ve delivered on that capability combat-ready solutions, flying over 250,000 sorties,” he said. “That experience is something no one else can come close to touching.”