IAI’s $150M EL/M-2032 Radar Contract Mystery
The EL/M-2032 can be delivered in different sizes, and equips a number of different aircraft. It has been fitted to F-16s, including Israel’s own fleet. It has also been used to upgrade V/STOL Sea Harriers, F-5E/F Tiger light fighters, and F-4 Phantom, Kfir C10s, and Jaguar strike fighters around the world; and was recently picked for South Korea’s TA-50 and India Tejas lightweight fighters. So the question is, who’s the customer?
All guesses are based on probabilities and deduction. Singapore is a prominent Asian IAI customer, but their F-16 fleet has divested or retired its early-model aircraft, leaving it with around 60 F-16C/D Block 52s whose APG-68v2 radars aren’t likely to be switched for the M-2032. Singapore already operates AESA radars on its F-15SG Strike Eagles, and is expected to opt for that level of radar technology in any retrofit.
Thailand operates F-16A/Bs, including some ex-Singaporean aircraft, and its F-5T Tigris already carries the EL/M-2032. On the other hand, they’re pursuing a $700 million upgrade program that already includes Northrop Grumman’s APG-68v9 radars.
On Jan 4/12, it was reported that South Korea had placed its 1st order with Korea Aerospace Industries for 20 FA-50 light fighters. Initial deliveries will use the EL/M-2032 as their radar, which makes South Korea a good bet to be the customer for this release. The given price is high for 20 planes, but might be explained by additional costs like spares, training, and longer-term support services associated with a new ROKAF radar system.
South Korea also has a program to upgrade its “KF-16” fighters, which use earlier generations of the AN/APG-68 radar. That competition involves up to 180 planes, however, and is looking at higher-end options. Raytheon has confirmed that they submitted their RACR AESA-technology radar, for instance, which is significantly more advanced than earlier-generation radars like the M-2032.
India’s Tejas lightweight fighter uses the EL/M-2032, but the last contract to buy Tejas fighters was issued in 2005. So, too, do India’s Sea Harriers, and their 10 flying naval strike Jaguar IM variants. India has given HAL a contract to perform the upgrades and installation for its Jaguar IS strike fleet, as part of a larger DARIN-III program.
A common fleet radar would make a certain amount of sense, and a new radar was expected to be part of DARIN-III. Which is why India’s 4 Jaguar IS squadrons (up to 80 aircraft) make up the other “most probable” target.
One way to improve this guess, would be to know which Asian customer signed a $1.1 billion deal with IAI for UAVs, missiles, radars, and other equipment in January 2012, and eliminate them. Globes had said it was India, but later retracted its statement.