Northrop Grumman is setting out to dominate the fighter radar business in the 2020s, adding a potential 1,000-aircraft F-16 retrofit market to its incumbency status on the F-35.
It sometimes feels that the battle between NG's Sabr and Raytheon's Racr active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for the F-16 has been in Groundhog Day mode for years, but this time it is different: the USAF has a firm schedule for a program to life-extend and upgrade 300-350 F-16C/D Block 40/50 fighters, and plans to have a final request for radar proposals on the street in November. (Lockheed Martin is the sole-source bidder for overall integration.)
The winning radar will also be the only choice offered by the US for F-16 export operators. Korea has already selected BAE Systems as integrator for its F-16 upgrade program and Taiwan is expected to be next in line.
Northrop Grumman cites incumbency and low risk as its main advantages, according to NG Electronic Systems vice president and general manager Joe Ensor. "We know what Lockheed Martin expects," he says. Also, Sabr and the F-35's APG-81 are designed to use the same modes and common software.
With the only other big upgrade market in sight being early-production F/A-18E/Fs, the Sabr-versus-Racr battle is heating up in a hurry.
Read our AviationWeek.com story: Northrop Targets F-16 AESA, Eyes F-15 And F-18.