Raytheon has won the competition to supply new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars for the US Marine Corps’ fleet of ‘classic’ F/A-18C/D Hornets. The APG-79(v)4 AESA is based on the set that is installed on the Super Hornet and deliveries will commence next year, to be complete by 2022. The effort was first revealed with the service’s 2018 Aviation Plan and is part of an effort to keep the fighters credible until they are replaced by F-35B/Cs. The Hornet fleet is currently expected to be retired around 2030.
In comparison to the US Air Force’s F-15E AESA radar retofit program, which has seen a protracted embodiment phase, the USMC Hornet radar upgrade has been lightning quick since becoming a funded program. The Marine Corps released a request for information for the type’s Raytheon AN/APG-73 replacement in March. Form-fit checks were carried out last summer by both Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, which offered its AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR). Raytheon’s AN/APG-79(V)4 was designed specifically for the Hornet several years ago in anticipation of this requirement. It had previously conducted a fit check of the AN/APG-79(VX) on a Hornet in 2010.
The Marine Corps plans to replace the existing APG-73 radar sets on 84 Hornets assigned to seven fighter attack squadrons, with 14 spare sets. Retrofits are due to commence in the fourth quarter of 2020 following the completion of testing and will run to the end of 2022.
The AESA radar will enable the F/A-18C/Ds to better perform multi-role missions, with an AESA better able to conduct both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. In addition, this is a spend-to-save plan, with the APG-73s being old and unreliable, soaking up a lot of man hours to keep then serviceable. ‘With AESA radars, fighter jet pilots and crews tip the scales in their favor over their adversaries,’ said Eric Ditmars, vice president of Raytheon Secure Sensor Solutions. ‘Now that the APG-79(v)4 is slated to fly on the classic Hornet, Marine Corps pilots will be able to identify, track and engage more targets over a greater distance than ever before.’