C4iSR: Air

USAF progresses SABR AESA radar integration onto F-16

28 March 2017
Maintenance personnel install mounting hardware for an APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar on a 416th Flight Test Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon in August 2015. The 416th FLTS has been conducting developmental testing on the AESA radar. Source: US Air Force

The US Air Force (USAF) is continuing with developmental testing of the active electronically scanned array (AESA) Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) aboard the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, the service announced on 24 March.

The work, which is being carried out by the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base (AFB) in California, forms part of the USAF's effort to replace the mechanically scanned AN/APG-66 and AN/APG-68 radars with the latest AESA technology.

Developed as a 'form-fit' solution for the F-16, the SABR is able to be fitted without any major modifications to the structure of the aircraft, or to its power and cooling systems. As noted by the USAF, the increased bandwidth of the SABR radar would allow the F-16 to detect, track, and identify greater numbers of targets faster, and at greater distances.

Data collected during previous trials is now being used by the USAF to determine if the radar can be implemented operationally in the future.

Northrop Grumman first flew the SABR on an F-16 in early 2010. The SABR has been designed by the company to be an affordable and scalable AESA radar designed for retrofitting in current F-16s. Although aimed specifically at F-16 customers unable to acquire the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-80 AESA radar fitted to the United Arab Emirates' Block 60 aircraft, it is also designed to be retrofitted to other legacy aircraft. Raytheon has also developed a scalable F-16 AESA in the form of the AN/APG-79-derived Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR).

With more than 4,550 F-16s delivered worldwide, there is massive scope for other operators besides the USAF to upgrade their fleets with the latest radar technology.

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