A new radar is being designed that could give the U.S. Air Force’s F-15Es a variety of electronic and cyber attack munitions.
The Air Force awarded a contract to Boeing and Raytheon to develop and flight test an advanced radar to modernize its Strike Eagle fleet of 224 aircraft. It will be test flown by 2011 and could produce an operational squadron by 2014.
The $238 million development and demonstration contract will feed the Radar Modernization Program and, possibly, an electronic upgrade package that both companies are intentionally vague about.
Roughly, the new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar – a combination of the APG-79 AESA array married to the latest computer, processing and software packages – will be the sensor and weapon. New software-driven electronic warfare (EW) packages (like BAE Systems new “Barracuda/Boldstroke/Xtreme EW” family of electronic and cyber attack systems) could be integrated to the radar to produce the non-kinetic bullets.
While kinetic weapons, like air-to-air missiles, have ranges out to about 100 mi., special electronic techniques routed through the powerful AESA radar could produce weapons effects and jamming of enemy radars and missiles at ranges up to 200 mi.
Moreover, on an F-15E, the powerful radar can be used to pick out helicopters, UAVs and even humans walking. With networked data about emissions in the area, the F-15E crew could also associate people and vehicles with their communications allowing the weapons systems operator to precisely target key personnel and vehicles across a large battlefield.
The mean time between failures for the electronically scanned radar for RMP are predicted at 10 times that of mechanically scanned radars, according to a senior Raytheon official. In associate programs, the Air National Guard is upgrading 48 F-15Cs with AESA radars for such missions as stealthy cruise missile defense. The active duty U.S. Air Force is planning to modify 177 C-models that they intend to keep operational until 2025.
Both the new radar and EW systems are being designed so they can meet a wide variety of missions, price and exportability requirements for foreign customers as well.