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Northrop Grumman begins range-testing advanced radar for F-35 JSF

May 27, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Northrop Grumman Corporation has begun rooftop integration range-testing of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's fire control radar, which features an active electronically scanned array (AESA) that enables near-simultaneous performance of multiple radar functions.
The AN/APG-81 AESA radar, which the company has developed under contract with Lockheed Martin, represents a significant advance in capability. Because the radar's beam is moved electronically, it can find targets much more quickly than older radars that move the antenna mechanically. The lack of moving parts greatly improves reliability as well.

Bob DuBeau, vice president of Combat Avionics at Northrop Grumman, says, "This event signifies the culmination of two and a half years of development work to get the first radar designed, built, and assembled. Now begins the process of integrating the software that provides the radar with its impressive suite of multiple modes."

The radar system integration work in the rooftop lab will require approximately six to eight months to complete the initial set of modes. This effort will include modeling and simulation, software development, and data reduction. Early in 2005, the radar will begin developmental flight-testing on board Northrop Grumman's BAC 1-11 flying testbed aircraft.

The BAC 1-11 tests will reduce radar integration risk by exercising both air and surface modes in an in-flight environment prior to delivery of the first radar to Lockheed Martin's Mission Systems Integration Lab (MSIL), which is scheduled for late 2005. Testing at the MSIL will integrate the radar with the rest of the mission systems suite using ground assets and flight tests on board the Lockheed Martin Cooperative Airborne Testbed.