F-22As to Add SAR/GTMI Capabilities
Northrop Grumman recently announced that tests aboard a company BAC 1-11 test aircraft have successfully demonstrated the AN/APG-77v1 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar’s ability to generate high-resolution, in-flight synthetic aperture radar (SAR) ground maps and moving target tracking. The test flights are the first phase of a planned multi-year contract with Boeing to add SAR capability to the existing fleet of F-22A Raptor stealth fighters, and incorporate them into new production aircraft. SAR capabilities can already be found in most multi-role fighter radars, and current image resolutions for aircraft like advanced F-15E Strike Eagles, F/A-18E/F Hornet Block IIs, et. al. are under 1 meter.
No details have been released, but the APG-77 can be expected to demonstrate similar performance, along with “agile beam” technology that makes it very hard to trace the origins of its radar scans. This is very different from conventional radars, which have been described as being akin to turning on a flashlight in a dark warehouse – enemies can see you long before you see them.
Directly identifying and targeting enemy ground defenses and mobile forces using its AESA radar will expand the Raptor’s offensive and defensive capabilities. On the offensive end, they make it possible for the F-22s to target ground installations and moving targets on the fly, in response to events during a mission. On the defensive end, the addition of SAR/GTMI lets the radar provide complete coverage of ground threats as well as aerial threats. While the aircraft’s electronic intercept capabilities and ability to share information from other military assets via Link 16, the new AESA Radar Common Data Link et. al. already provided some capabilities in this regard, the addition of high-resolution, agile-beam active radar scans adds an important piece to the puzzle. Northrop Grumman release.