F-16 Fighting Falcon News

Retrofit AESAs set for F-16 tests

September 16, 2008 (by Asif Shamim) - According to Aviation Week, Northrop Grumman plans to begin rooftop testing of the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) next week. Rival manufacturer Lockheed Martin has its Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) still in laboratory testing phase.

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The Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) from Northrop Grumman will be a full performance fire control Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) derived from proven AESA technology for F-16 aircraft. [Northrop Grumman photo]

Rival manufacturer Lockheed Martin has its Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) still in laboratory testing phase. Both companies hope to flight test their active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs) in F-16s in 2009.

The SABR unit will be tested on the roof of Northrop's plant in Baltimore site, says program manager Dave Wallace. Aircraft flying in and out of the neighboring international airport will be used as targets.

Flight testing begins in November with the radar installed in Northrop's Sabreliner testbed, which is fitted with a complete F-16 nose, including radome. Wallace went on to say the company is talking to Lockheed and potential customers to secure access to an F-16 for flight tests.

"We're talking to three or four sources," Wallace says, adding that, although interest in the SABR is coming from international operators, the flight tests would be conducted on a U.S.-based F-16 to avoid export-release issues.

Northrop will pay for qualification of the SABR on the F-16, "and we feel we will probably pay for the flight demonstration", Wallace says.

Raytheon plans to test its RACR unit directly on an F-16 and avoid using a surrogate testbed.

Both the SABR and RACR are intended as direct replacements for the existing mechanically scanned Northrop radars in the F-16A/B and C/D. The SABR is a retrofit kit that can be installed in the field

Northrop plans to complete initial development of the radar by year end, then begin working with customers on their specific requirements.