SABR takes X-band radar a step further

 - February 20, 2008, 3:59 AM

Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems Division revealed here yesterday the latest in its growing active electronically steered antenna (AESA) radar family. The Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) builds on the company’s expertise of developing AESA radars for the F-22, F-35 and F-16 Block 60. New panel array technology and new tile architecture has resulted in a lighter and more affordable X-band radar that can be retrofitted to several light tactical aircraft.

Initially the SABR team is targeting the F-16 (Block 50/52 and earlier). The company has built thousands of APG-66/68 mechanically scanned radars for the F-16, and sees a big market for upgrading the aircraft with an AESA. As its name suggests, the radar is scalable up or down to fit other types.

Cost and installation are the driving factors behind the SABR. Publicly revealing the SABR for the first time, Chris Shepard, Northrop Grumman’s Business Development manager of F-16 Systems, wouldn’t comment on potential customers, performance or a notional cost, but did stress that the SABR offered full performance and would come at a considerably cheaper price than other AESAs. He added, “We are not competing with the APG-80” in a reference to the company’s AESA radar in the F-16 Block 60.

On the question of installation, Shepard explained, “We had to develop something that fit within the existing framework of size, weight, power and cooling. It needs to fit the existing electrical and physical interfaces. It has to be compatible with existing pilot/vehicle interfaces.” Removing the need for any aircraft modifications keeps the costs down.

Work on SABR has been going on for about a year, and Northrop Grumman has already checked a full-scale model of the radar for installation in an F-16. The company has begun manufacturing the transmit/receive tiles, and plans to fly a development SABR in its Sabreliner testbed before year-end. Northrop Grumman equipped that aircraft with a replica of the F-16’s avionics system and an F-16 radome.