Defense News reports that the Pentagon has given the Super Hornet program the nod to take the Active Electronically Scanned Array radar into the "full rate production" phase of its development. Now Raytheon can start making as many as 72 AESA systems a year.
Early word on the AESA radar from the fleet bubbas we're in comms with suggest that it is going to be a game changer. Tomcat RIOs turned WSOs, reared on the tempermental AWG-9, absolutely love AESA. "It's an S.A. machine," one WSO said, using the Naval Aviation acronym for "situational awareness." Specifically, AESA not only tracks multiple airborne targets at long range, it also provides high-resolution ground mapping for air-to-ground tracking, even from standoff range. And it's high speed data processing and intuitive displays transform the Super Hornet into a "mini AWACS," according to several crews DT has talked to in recent months. In fact, the challenge will be for crews to effectively fuse all the information that's readily available into their airborne tactics.
And the goodness doesn't end in the cockpit. Raytheon claims AESA is three to five times more reliable than other radars in service, which will certainly make maintainers happy, especially former Tomcat tweaks.
VFA-213 based at NAS Oceana will be the first squadron to deploy with AESA-equipped Super Hornets.
(Super Hornet "vapes" photo by Robin Powney.)