Lockheed Martin selected the Northrop Grumman scalable agile beam radar (SABR) for planned radar upgrades of approximately 445 U.S. and Taiwanese air force F-16s. Northrop Grumman announced the selection on July 31.
The F-16 radar modernization is part of the U.S. Air Force’s combat avionics programmed extension suite (Capes) effort to upgrade Block 40/50 F-16s with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire-control radar, an ALQ-213 electronic warfare management suite and other avionics. Northrop Grumman offered the SABR system for the AESA radar component of the upgrade, competing against Raytheon’s advanced combat radar (RACR).
In late 2011, the USAF said it would pursue the Capes and a service-life extension of approximately 300 F-16s, at an estimated cost of $3 billion, to compensate for delayed operational readiness of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. (In June, the service said that it expects the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant to achieve IOC in December 2016.) At around the same time the USAF disclosed plans for the F-16 modernization, the Obama administration decided against selling new F-16s to Taiwan and instead notified Congress of the proposed upgrade of 145 older F-16A/Bs operated by the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF). The AESA radar retrofit of the ROCAF jets would be conducted in parallel with the U.S. F-16 modernization, Northrop Grumman said.
The incorporation of an AESA radar is the basis of a new version of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, designated the F-16V, that Lockheed Martin unveiled at the Singapore Airshow in February last year. “The conclusion of the AESA radar competition marks the next chapter in the Fighting Falcon’s ongoing evolution,” said Roderick McLean, general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and F-22 integrated fighter group.
The competition between Northrop Grumman and Raytheon continues for potentially hundreds of other international F-16 radar upgrades. In April, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) selected the RACR system for its planned upgrade of 134 F-16C/Ds. The ROKAF program is also distinguished in that the Korean government earlier chose BAE Systems over F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin as the systems integrator for new avionics and weapons.