New F-15 radar debuts at Florida's 125th Fighter Wing
By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau
/ Published May 06, 2010
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (April 13, 2010) -- JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (April 13, 2010) - The Air National Guard unveiled an upgrade to the radar system for its F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft during a ceremony at Florida's 125th Fighter Wing, April 12, giving the jets greater capabilities while reducing maintenance costs.
The new Raytheon radar system -- the APG-63(v)3 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) -- replaces the older mechanically controlled devices currently in the aircraft.
"The AESA radar marks another milestone in the journey of success for the 125th Fighter Wing," said Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Douglas Burnett, who helped unveil the radar during the ceremony. "It is without question the most technologically advanced radar in the entire world for airborne fighters. Certainly we owe a debt of gratitude to Boeing and Raytheon for the incredible work they've done in bringing this system online and now getting it installed in the Jacksonville Air National Guard unit."
Congressman Ander Crenshaw, Assistant Adjutant General for the Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Joseph Balskus, and representatives from Boeing and Raytheon assisted in the unveiling.
"When the F-15 was first designed and made, the radar in it was world class, the best at the time, but it's 1970s technology," said Air Force Maj. Dave Slaydon, chief of F-15 requirements for the Air National Guard. "It's a mechanically scanned array, meaning it's a radar dish like you would see in the movies and it has hydraulics that move it back and forth to point around the sky to find the bad guys."
The new radar system does away with the hydraulics system completely.
"With this new technology it is a flat panel with a bunch of little panels on it and you can electronically steer the radar beam around," said Slaydon.
A radar controlled electronically, rather than mechanically, has a number of benefits, including less maintenance on the equipment.
"Since there are no moving parts to it, it hardly ever breaks," said Slaydon. "There aren't any hydraulics or mechanical parts banging around. That gives it a really, really high reliability rate which is good for us as it means the jet is (available) more often to fly as there are less maintenance actions required on it."
But, said Slaydon, the big plus is the improved capabilities of the radar unit.
"The performance part is where we really make the money," said Slaydon. "With that technology of the radar being electronically controlled, the beam can be pointed all around the sky in fractions of a second."
That translates to a greater situational awareness, said Slaydon.
"What that allows you to do is to track multiple targets and be able to engage multiple targets," he said. "It also gives you a greater detection range, so you can find the bad guys at a further range and it has increased identification capabilities as well where the radar can scan the radar signature and tell if it's a Boeing 747 or is it a fighter-type of jet."
Development of the improved F-15 radar system has been ongoing for about the past five years, said Slaydon, adding that it has been an Air National Guard-led program from the beginning.
"We have partnered with the active duty Air Force, and they have taken a huge role in the program," he said. "But it was conceived by, developed by and we're fielding it first in the Air National Guard so that's a big feather in our cap."
The radar will be fielded by the 125th Fighter Wing, based in Jacksonville, Fla., said Slaydon. Units in the Oregon and Louisiana Air National Guard will be the next to get the radar sets.
Fielding in Florida and Oregon is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010, and Louisiana is scheduled to receive the upgrades in the early part of 2011.
"We're spreading out the initial beddown to put the capability where it's needed geographically," Slaydon said. "After that initial issue, we'll then go in a fill in with a few more as needed."
He added that future sites may include Massachusetts and Montana.
Although the new radar units are specifically for the F-15, the technology translates to other fighter platforms as well, said Slaydon, adding that it has been incorporated into the F-22 Raptor.
The fielding of the equipment speaks to the capabilities of the Air Guard. "It just shows that the Air National Guard is committed to air dominance," said Slaydon. "That applies to both our homeland defense mission as well as our worldwide capabilities that we bring air dominance to the combatant commanders worldwide. That includes modernizing our jets to bring the capabilities to what the mission requires."