AESA Radar for ‘Classic’ Hornet Fighter Makes First Flight

 - May 11, 2022, 6:52 AM
The first APG-79(V)4 radar gets airborne from China Lake in a VX-31 F/A-18D Hornet. During the flight the new sensor’s seamless integration with existing avionics was demonstrated. (Photo: Raytheon Intelligence & Space)

Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S) has announced that the first APG-79(V)4 radar system has begun flight tests. The radar features an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) antenna and incorporates gallium nitride (GaN) in its transmit/receive modules, the first airborne fire control radar to employ this technology. The prototype radar, which was delivered last year, first took to the air at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, in a Marine Corps F/A-18D operated by VX-31 “Dust Devils”, a joint Navy/Marines trials squadron.

“Following successful ground testing and the delivery of the prototype radar, this flight test was critical to observe performance in the air,” said Thomas Shaurette, vice president of F/A-18 & Global Strike Radars. “It allowed our partners to see the V4 radar’s enhanced detection and tracking abilities in real-time.”

APG-79(V)4 is a version of the APG-79 that is installed in the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block 2/3 and EA-18G Growler, and shares many parts and technologies with the original to optimize costs and sustainment. It is scaled for compatibility with the earlier F/A-18A/B/C/D “classic” Hornet, and is being procured as part of an update for a portion of the Marine Corps fleet. Raytheon also has a contract to provide 36 APG-79(V)4s for the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Hornet upgrade program.

The new radar is a key element of an upgrade program being applied to selected Hornet airframes in order to maintain overall force capability. The Corps intend to be fully equipped with the Lockheed Martin F-35B and F-35C by around 2030, when the Hornet is scheduled to retire.

Under a 2020 plan the Naval Air Systems Command has selected 80-plus of the best-condition Hornets from the current fleet, including some recently-retired former Navy aircraft. Following a successful high-flight hour inspection at 8,000 hours, they will be cleared for a 10,000-hour life, sufficient to take then through to at least 2030. All are due to receive the APG-79(V)4, of which 50 have been contracted to date. The upgraded Hornets are intended to serve with up to seven 12-aircraft squadrons, each operating a mix of single-seat F/A-18Cs and two-seat F/A-18Ds.