As part of the F-16 Radar Modernization Program, a team from the 416th Flight Test Squadron are preparing to conduct flight testing of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar on two 412th Test Wing aircraft from Sept. 2015 through Aug. 2016.
“Current F-16 mechanically-scan radars have limited target handling capacity because existing mechanical scanning methods are inherently slow and require large amounts of power in order to respond rapidly enough to deal with large numbers of high-speed maneuvering targets,” said Jon Haser, 416th Flight Test Squadron Integrity Driven Quality Focused Project Support contractor.
According to Haser, the F-16 RMP is a risk mitigation effort designed to deliver fully-developed AESA radars for integration on Foreign Military Sales and U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft. AESA radars are known for their superior capability than current operational radars.
“In an era in which the numerical superiority of adversaries is expected to remain large, an electronic scanning radar can offset that advantage and provide increase lethality for the F-16,” said Haser.
“With mechanically-scanned systems, antenna inertia and inflexibility prevent employment of optimum radar beam positioning patterns that can reduce reaction times and increase target capacity,” added Haser. “With electronic scanning, the radar beams are positioned almost instantaneously and completely without the inertia, time lags and vibration of mechanical [radar] systems.”
Additionally, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics selected Northrop Grumman to provide their Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR: AN/APG-83 Fire Control Radar) as contractor furnished equipment for Foreign Military Sales and potentially USAF F-16 modernization programs.
“This RMP test program will consist of a Design Try-Out to help develop radar modes of the SABR and to evaluate the AN/APG-83 radar performance specified in the contract prior to integration efforts by Lockheed Martin,” Haser said.
Although Haser stated no USAF F-16 aircraft programs have been identified to receive AESA radar upgrades, the RMP flight test efforts here will directly affect the AESA radar development for the F-16 Phoenix Rising Project for Taiwan, slated to begin at the end of 2015.