Singapore: AESA Radar Competition Heats Up
By Wendell Minnick
SINGAPORE — A competition pitting Northrop Grumman against Raytheon to supply Active Electronically Scanning Array (AESA) radars for retrofits for F-16 fighter upgrade programs in South Korea and Taiwan is heating up at the Singapore Airshow.
Northrop received official permission from the U.S. government to submit proposals to sell the Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) to South Korea for 135 KF-16C/D Block 52 fighters and to Taiwan for 146 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters. The SABR is facing off against the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR), which received an export license in 2008.
A DSP-5 export license was issued in January, said Joseph Ensor, Northrop’s ISR and Targeting Systems vice president and general manager. The license allows for the release of technical information and other data to a foreign country. The DSP-5, authorized by the U.S. State Department, is the first step in the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program managed by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).
“You can’t provide a proposal without a DSP-5 license, but within the DSP-5 there are provisos that limit the release of some sensitive data,” said Raytheon’s Jim Hvizd, vice president of International Strategy and Business Development. The U.S. Congress, under FMS guidelines, must then approve the sale before going forward.
“We look at it pragmatically that we fully comply with U.S. regulations,” Hvizd said. “We had a license to take it to South Korea to demonstrate.”
In some ways, Raytheon’s possession of a DSP-5 since 2008 has given it advantages over Northrop. In addition, Raytheon’s earlier AESA radar, the APG-63(V)2, is the only AESA radar to have been equipped on Lockheed’s F-16 Falcon, as well as Boeing’s F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet.
“Our users have already used our earlier AESA radars in combat, which has added capability to RACR,” Hvizd said.
Singapore was the first to get an AESA radar, the APG-63(V)3, for the F-15SG. Hvizd said that radar is being offered on the F-15 for South Korea’s FX-3 competition.
The winner of either of these competitions could create a “winner take all” effect for later competitions in both the international and U.S. markets, Ensor said.
“I do believe the first competitions will give the winner more confidence,” Hvizd said.
The stakes could be high with the Feb. 10 issuance by the U.S. Air Force of a request for information (RFI) on AESA retrofits.