The U.S. Navy received Milestone C acquisition approval earlier this month to begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) of an infrared search and track (IRST) sensor pod for the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Manufacturer Lockheed Martin and partner Boeing will deliver six pods in the first LRIP lot.
The AN/ASG-34 IRST sensor gives the F/A-18E/F a long-range, passive search and tracking capability against multiple targets, supplementing the jet’s APG-79 active electronically scanned radar and other sensors. The pod is mounted on the nose section of the Super Hornet’s centerline fuel tank. It completed a first flight aboard an F/A-18F in February.
“Integrating the infrared pod onto the Super Hornet revolutionizes how we fight on a networked battlefield,” said Capt. Frank Morley, Naval Air Systems Command PMA-265 program manager. “IRST advances the Super Hornet’s role in air-to-air combat operations, keeping us ahead of our adversaries in an evolving threat environment.”
The IRST program “was not impervious” to defense budget cuts, said Michele Moran, the PMA-265 electro-optics/infrared integrated product team lead. “Our team was able to completely restructure the program, overcome the budget constraints and press forward with Milestone C.”
Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, made the Milestone C approval on December 2. The six LRIP pods will enable the program to work toward initial operational capability of the system, which the Navy expects in 2017.