Japan to Replace RF-4EJs with F-15Js + SAR Pods
Once upon a time, nations produced dedicated reconnaissance aircraft variants of front like fighters, or even dedicated reconnaissance fighter designs. These usually involved airframe modifications to place bulky camera equipment in the aircraft’s nose and/or centerline, and the sacrifice of guns and some stores stations. Anyone who has ever watched the movie “Terminator” and marveled at the bulky devices that used to be called “portable music players” will understand why this sort of thing isn’t necessary any more. Small pods like the RecceLITE, SHARP, LITENING et. al. can be fitted to any fighter, instantly turning it into a reconnaissance and/or targeting platform.
The JASDF(Japanese Air Self Defence Force) 501 Hikotai at Hyakuri AB flies the Japanese contingent of 27 RF-4EJs. Some were originally RF-4E reconnaissance planes, while others are converted F-4EJ fighters. They are scheduled to be decommissioned soon, and to replace them…
Lockheed Martin will work with a number of Japanese firms to create external synthetic aperture radar (SAR) pods that will attach to the belly of Japan’s front-line F-15J Eagles, a Mitsubishi-built F-15C variant. The SAR will be Lockheed Martin’s.
Most reconnaissance and targeting pods are electro-optical, but SAR systems can peer through clouds and darkness to create photo-quality images. They have been used to generate images for a diverse range of military and science applications including: earth resources monitoring, agricultural and land use, ocean spill monitoring, polar ice assessment, intelligence acquisition, battlefield reconnaissance and weapon delivery.
Small SAR systems can even be found these days on some UAVs, like the Thales/Elbit Watchkeeper. The system equipping Japan’s F-15Js is likely to be significantly larger, which would improve its range and viewing capabilities.
Once integrated onto the aircraft, the radar will receive, process and disseminate critical targeting information in real-time. The system utilizes a solid-state digital system to record imagery, an airborne data-link to electronically relay information to ground stations, and the SAR to accurately locate targets day or night, and in any type of weather. Lockheed Martin release.
Lockheed Martin is currently marketing podded SAR systems in several additional countries, specifically for the F-16 and F-4, and have produced SAR systems on the F-4s for more than 30 years. Lockheed’s SAR systems have also flown on F/A-18s, the (now retired, except by Iran) F-14s, and South Korea’s modified Hawker 800 business jets.