P1E upgrades to Tranche 2 production aircraft and structural changes in Tranche 3a will introduce provisions for the electronically scanned radar, the consortium says. The wing and rear fuselage for the first Tranche 3a Typhoon were delivered by Alenia Aermacchi to BAE Systems in late September.
Availability of an AESA is key in South Korea, where Eurofighter is competing against the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-35 for a 60-aircraft order, with a decision expected as early as this month.
Korea plans to retrofit 134 F-16C/Ds with AESAs and has selected BAE Systems to lead the aircraft’s upgrade, but is conducting a separate competition for the radar, with incumbent Northrop Grumman offering its Sabr AESA against Raytheon’s Racr.
Lockheed Martin has been awarded the $1.85 billion contract to upgrade 145 Taiwanese F-16A/Bs, but Taiwan plans to use the AESA that the U.S. Air Force selects for its 300-aircraft F-16C/D Combat Aviation Programmed Extension Suite (Capes) upgrade.
“Taiwan has asked the U.S. government to select an AESA for them as part of the Air Force plan,” says Jim Hvizd, who is leading Raytheon’s Racr sales campaign. “Korea has a slightly different approach and is conducting its own competitive assessment.”
“Korea is working loosely with the Air Force, but Taiwan is tightly coupled,” says Joe Ensor, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems’ intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting systems division.
A U.S. Air Force request for proposals for an AESA upgrade for domestic and international F-16s is expected “any day now,” Ensor says, with award of a contract expected in the third or fourth quarter of next year.
Initial operational capability of the Air Force’s Capes upgrade is planned for 2018, which will pace foreign military sales availability of an AESA for international F-16 operators. “The earliest Taiwan could get it is 2017,” Ensor believes.