Raytheon Breaks Into F-16 Radar Upgrade Market

 - April 12, 2013, 11:55 AM
Raytheon has scored a notable success in Korea, where its AESA radar will replace older Northrop Grumman fire control units in that country’s 134 F-16s. (Photo: Raytheon)

The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has chosen the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) for its pending upgrade of 134 F-16C/Ds, for delivery beginning in late 2016. The Koreans are the first to choose between the RACR and the rival Scaleable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) from Northrop Grumman, which previously supplied all radars for F-16s. At least another 500 F-16s belonging to Singapore, Taiwan and the U.S. Air Force could be upgraded with advanced electronically scanned array (AESA) radars such as the RACR and the SABR.

According to Jim Hvizd, vice president for international business development at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, the Koreans assessed the competing radars on performance; operational suitability; acquisition and support costs; and contract and schedule. “We were the decisive winner in each category,” he claimed. Hvizd added that RACR is a repackaging of the APG-79 and APG-82 AESA radars designed for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-15E Strike Eagle, respectively. “The risk of integration into legacy platforms is low in our technology; we accommodate the interface on the radar, to minimize modifications to the jet itself,” he added.

The ROKAF has led moves to modernize the F-16, and has already departed from tradition by appointing BAE Systems to integrate the upgrade, rather then the OEM. But Hvizd noted that the service has appointed Lockheed Martin to manage the Taiwan upgrade of 145 F-16A/Bs, and would evaluate the competing radars on behalf of the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF). Although it had previously been supposed that most F-16 countries considering a radar upgrade would await the U.S Air Force’s choice between the RACR and the SABR, Hvizd said that others might also select ahead of the Pentagon. Because of delays in the F-35A program, the U.S. Air Force wants to upgrade 300 F-16s. Whether the plan will survive U.S. budget cutbacks remains to be seen.

Raytheon is also marketing the RACR to the eight international air arms that operate older F/A-18 Hornets. Hvizd declined to discuss individual countries, but told AIN that he “looks forward to some news [on F/A-18 upgrades] later this year.”