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October 16, 2012

Air Force to let Lockheed pick radar for F-16 upgrades

Interesting article by Flight Global's Dave Majumdar. The Air Force has decided to let Lockheed decide who's AESA radar is best suited for upgrading F-16s, Northrop Grumman's or Raytheon's.

"The USAF is contracting with Lockheed Martin to develop an AESA [active electronically scanned array] fire control radar as a CFE (Contractor Furnished Equipment) item for the F-16 platform," says Dawn Sutton, deputy director of the USAF's F-16 System Program Office (SPO). "We defer to Lockheed Martin as to their plans on how to most appropriately meet the subject requirement. However, it's our expectation that Lockheed Martin will conduct a source selection to choose a radar vendor to meet the Air Force requirements."

Now, this non-expert observer of the defense acquisition process has to wonder just how open a competition this really will be. Let's see, the Air Force uses Northrop radars now on it's newest aircraft and it's already on some top-of-the-line export F-16s, all Lockheed planes. Boeing built planes use Raytheon. 

There are two competing AESA radars that are on the market. One is Northrop Grumman's Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR), which is based on technology developed from the APG-77, APG-80 and APG-81 found respectively on the Lockheed F-22 Raptor, F-16E/F Block 60, and F-35. The other is the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR), which is based on the APG-63 (V) 3, APG-79 and APG-82 found on the Boeing F-15C, F/A-18E/F, and F-15E respectively.

Speaking of F-16 upgrades, Lockheed has been awarded a contract to bring 12 of the government of Oman's relatively modern Block 60 f-16s up to date.

  Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, (FA8615-13-C-6048) is being awarded a $94,700,000 firm-fixed-price contract for retrofit of 12 F-16 C/D Block 60 multi-role fighter aircraft.  The location of the performance is Fort Worth, Texas.  Work is expected to be completed by May 16, 2016.  The contracting activity is AFLCMC/WWMK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.  Contract involves Foreign Military Sales for the government of Oman. 

So do the Omani F-16s get the latest radar and electronics warfare upgrades that the U.S. will get or something similar? Lockheed won't say.

The Oman retrofit program is designed to bring their existing aircraft up to a common configuration with the aircraft they recently procured.  Any additional questions should be referred to the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO). 

- Bob Cox

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