Northrop’s SABR ‘well positioned’ to clinch USAF F-16 radar upgrade effort

Northrop Grumman says that its Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) is “well positioned” to secure contracts to upgrade US Air Force and Taiwanese Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons with a new active electronically scanned array (AESA) system despite a recent loss to rival Raytheon in South Korea.

“The US Air Force and Taiwan are working hand-in-hand together,” says Joseph Ensor, Northrop’s vice president for its targeting systems division. “They’re a separate programme from what Korea did with their competition.”



 Lockheed Martin

South Korea conducted a commercial source selection for their new radar, ultimately selecting the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar which will be integrated onto the F-16 by BAE Systems.

The USAF, meanwhile, has selected Lockheed to be its prime integrator for the combat avionics programmed extension suite (CAPES) upgrade. The service has left it up to the company to choose a new radar for the USAF’s 300 healthiest F-16s.

“I think we’re well positioned based on the technology and our offering,” Ensor says. “Nothing’s a given, we have to compete and win that programme, but I still believe we’re well positioned.

Ensor says that the USAF’s CAPES programme will be the starting point for future F-16 upgrade foreign military sales (FMS) contracts, including the Taiwan upgrade effort. “Taiwan will be one of the launch customers for this F-16 AESA upgrade,” he says.

Northrop expects that Lockheed will pick a radar for the CAPES programme in August, Ensor says.

Picking the SABR would offer many benefits for the USAF and Lockheed, Ensor says. The SABR is highly common in terms of hardware and software with radars Northrop is already building for the USAF’s fifth-generation fighter fleet comprised of Lockheed-built F-22 Raptors and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

For future upgrades, that means software developed for the Raptor’s APG-77 radar and F-35’s APG-81 system can be ported over to the SABR with only minor tweaks, Ensor says. Moreover, pilots transferring from one airframe to another would be familiar with many of the displays, company officials say.


MROAM: USAF breaks up P&W monopoly on C-17 engine services

Pratt & Whitney says it accepts a US Air Force decision to break up the company’s 18-year grip on sustainment services for the engines that power the global fleet of Boeing C-17A airlifters.

The USAF has issued a request for proposals seeking competitive bids for a contract to manage the supply chain for the F117, which is the military derivative of the PW2000 turbofan that P&W supplies for the four-engined strategic transport.

P&W has managed all F117 sustainment services since 1995 under a performance-based logistics (PBL) deal that ties fees and payments to meeting certain performance criteria, such as time-on-wing. However, the USAF is now moving to a conventional maintenance services deal.

“There’s been encouragement from Congress to have a competition,” says Bennett Croswell, president of P&W military engines. “It’s really hard from [the USAF] to have a PBL and compete it because no one else has the full intellectual property that we do to be really effective in a PBL. So I can understand that they’re doing what they’re doing.”

At the same time, Croswell says P&W is proud of its performance under the PBL contract, which included a 60% reduction in engine removals since 2008 and a seven-fold increase in time-on-wing since 1995.

P&W now must compete for the new F117 supply chain management contract against several new bidders.

“It will be more of a transactional contract,” Croswell says. “This will inform that debate [about the value of PBLs] because we’re going away from a PBL and now we’ll see how a transactional approach to maintaining this engine, will that cost more or less?”

The competition required P&W and the USAF to reach an agreement on access to some of the company’s intellectual property (IP) on the F117 installed base. P&W will provide the bidders with the same data that it supplies to commercial airlines that operate the PW2000 engine, Croswell says.

“There was an IP discussion and issue for a while, but I think we’ve gotten around that,” he says.

Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets database records the current global C-17 fleet as totalling 251 aircraft, with these flown by the air forces of Australia, Canada, India, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the USA, plus a consortium of NATO and Partnership for Peace nations.

Boeing and USAF will have to recertificate entire F-15SA flight envelope

By:   Dave Majumdar Washington DC
02:40 3 Apr 2013



Boeing and the US Air Force will have to recertificate the new F-15SA’s performance over the Eagle’s entire flight envelope due to its new fly-by-wire flight control systems.

“The entire F-15 flight envelope requires clearance for the F-15SA fly-by-wire system,” the USAF says. “The flight test to certify airworthiness will take approximately a year and a half to accomplish.”

True fly-by-wire is a departure from the traditional F-15 hybrid electronic/mechanical flight control system. Previous incarnations of the jet were equipped with a dual-channel, high-authority, three-axis control augmentation system superimposed on top of a hydro-mechanical system.

However, Saudi Arabia’s 84 F-15SAs on order will have its two outer wing weapons stations activated, making it necessary to implement a fly-by-wire flight control system.

“The main benefit for the fly-by-wire system is to compensate for the stability differences induced by carrying weapons in the one and nine stations – not used to date on any F-15 platform,” the USAF says.

The service adds it is not yet known how the redesigned flight control system will affect the pilot. “It is too early in the flight test programme to appropriately characterise [the] ‘feel’ of the flight controls,” the service says.

The first F-15SA, an advanced derivative of the F-15E, flew a limited flight envelope on 20 February. Other upgrades for the F-15SA include an active electronically scanned array radar and a digital electronic warfare system.

The USAF will not activate the outer wing weapons stations on its own F-15Es, the service says. Nor will the fly-by-wire controls be retrofitted to existing USAF Strike Eagles.

Raymond Jaworowski, an analyst with Forecast International, says that there are two reasons for Boeing and the USAF to undertake the difficult task of redesigning the F-15’s flight control systems this late into the aircraft’s life-cycle.

The first is that Saudi Arabia might have specifically asked for certain capabilities. “It is fairly sizable order,” Jaworowski says. “So whatever they can do to satisfy the customer would be in their best interests.”

A second possible reason for the extensive modification, Jaworowski says, is that Boeing wants to keep the F-15 in production for as long as possible. Keeping the Eagle as modern as possible would help the company compete on the world market before Lockheed Martin‘s F-35 becomes dominant, he says.

“Eventually, 10 years from now, the F-35 will be the dominant fighter on the world market,” Jaworowski says. “In the meantime there are possibilities for additional sales of older fighters like the F-15, so Boeing is going to keep the F-15 with as much current technology as possible in order to pick up those sales.”