Jan 22, 2015 18:22 UTC
It may yet be a decade or two before the U.S. has an appetite for another “generation” increment for its fighters, but Boeing and Northrop Grumman are hungry now. Northrop is
touting its new design teams dedicated to generating capabilities for the Navy and Air Forces future wish lists. The little information about their initial efforts indicate that it is oddly close to Boeing’s own requirements appetizer, which sported a flying wing design and preceded Northrop’s announcement by more than a year.
The flying wing focus may be a product of these airframes being quite similar to existing development work done for stealth fighter UAV programs, which have featured the more stealthy wing designs.
After seeing how chummy the service branches became in creating a joint strike fighter, Northrop is bowing to current service desires and employing two independent teams to ensure that both the Navy and Air Force can dream big without design compromises.
Some F/A-XX work was generated back in April 2012, when the Navy asked contractors for information about F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Growler replacements – an early indication that the F-35 was not going to be all things to all services.
One interesting feature, at least in Boeing’s theoretical offering, is that the fighter can be flown by wire – still a politically charged feature in several ways. Pilots have been skeptical of unmanned fighters, such as the UCAS-D/N-UCAS/UCLASS program. The subsequent UCLASS project has been watered down by the Navy, with its role limited to surveillance type activities it is thought in order to preserve the more kinetic jobs for manned aircraft like the F/A-XX.
Jan 22, 2015 01:45 UTC
Latest updates[?]: "Gen-5" version to come with air-to-air capacity. Northrop Grumman is fielding them just as the Navy is about to issue an RFP for about 300 targeting pods destined for F/A-18s.
Sniper on F-16
At the end of September 2010, the USAF dropped something of a bombshell. Under their $2.3 billion Advanced Targeting Pod – Sensor Enhancement (ATP-SE) contract, the service that had begun standardizing on one future surveillance and targeting pod type decided to change course, and split its buys.
This decision is a huge breakthrough for Northrop Grumman, whose LITENING pod had lost the USAF’s initial 2001 Advanced Targeting Pod competition. As a result of that competition, the USAF’s buys had shifted from LITENING to Sniper pods, and Lockheed Martin’s Sniper became the pod of choice for integration onto new USAF platforms. Since then, both of these pods have chalked up procurement wins around the world, and both manufacturers kept improving their products. That continued competition would eventually change the landscape once again.
In January 2015, Rafael announced that their upcoming upgrade that they call G-4 Advanced outside the U.S., and “G-5″ for the Americans will have air-to-air targeting capabilities.
In addition to more diverse targeting, the pods are said to feature inter-asset communications and sensor sharing capabilities – in essence some of the whiz-bang features touted in the F-35 platform that is supposed to push the F/A-18 into obsolescence.
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Jan 13, 2015 07:38 UTC
Latest updates[?]: USN paying for hardware changes, but the radar's software weaknesses are still a problem, 7 years after introduction. January 2015 flight test was deemed successful by Raytheon.
AN/APG-79 AESA Radar
The AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar began life as a replacement. Initial F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet production batches installed Raytheon’s all-weather, multimode AN/APG-73, but the APG-79 has intrinsic technical features that offered revolutionary increases in capability, reliability, image resolution, and range.
Unlike the APG-73 that equipped the first Super Hornets, the APG-79’s AESA array is composed of numerous solid-state transmit and receive modules that are fixed in place, eliminating a common cause of breakdowns. To move their beams, they rely on electronic changes in each module’s transmissions, creating useful interference patterns in order to aim, focus and shape their output. Other system components include an advanced receiver/exciter, ruggedized commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) processor, and power supplies. With its open systems architecture and compact COTS parts, it changes what both aircrews and maintenance staff can do with a fighter radar – and does so in a smaller, lighter package.
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