The US Navy's next-generation aircraft radar system has been approved for full-rate production following extensive review by the office of the assistant secretary of the Navy (research, development and acquisition) on 25 June 2007.
PMA-265, a multi-platform programme office that acquires, delivers, and sustains the F/A-18 weapon system, was granted authorization to enter into full rate production for 437 next-generation APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars.
"Super Hornet Block II and EA-18G aircraft equipped with AESA's revolutionary war fighting capability makes Naval Aviation more relevant than ever in our history to the joint combatant commander. Our Super Hornets and Growlers - with cutting edge radar technology, precise and networked enabled weapons in combination with joint interoperable and open architectures - increases the combat effectiveness of all those operating in the battle space," said Capt. BD Gaddis, PMA-265 Programme Manager.
This major programme milestone marks the end of a Low Rate Production (LRIP) period of 84 radars that began with delivery of the first LRIP 1 unit in July 2003.
The AESA programme started in 1999 and the radar had its first flight in July 2003. The programme completed an operational evaluation in December 2006 and will commence follow-on test and evaluation later this summer in preparation for first deployment in 2008.
"With more than 8200 flight hours on LRIP hardware in the past 2 years, AESA system hardware has been extremely reliable and maintainable," said Shirley Franko, AESA programme co-lead. "With its highly advanced built-in-test capability and no moving parts to fail, the system boasts an operational availability of 96 per cent."
To date the AESA radar has proven to be seven times more reliable than the legacy system it replaces, and programme officials expect this figure to increase in the future.
AESA systems are currently flying in four Fleet squadrons and have impressed aircrew and maintenance users on both coasts, said Franko.
"This cutting-edge radar is a critical enabler for Block II Super Hornets," said Cmdr. John Green, AESA programme lead. "A total of 437 Block II Super Hornets will have AESA radars, bringing advanced capabilities and improved reliability to the Fleet."
Australia is also procuring 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornet equipped with AESA, Green added.
Advanced capabilities include cruise missile defense, an enhanced SAR-mapping capability, extended air-to-air range, and an interleaved mode capability that allows air-to-air and air-to-ground modes to be used simultaneously.