The new electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, APG-81, from Northrop Grumman Corporation, successfully tracked long-range targets on Lockheed Martin's first mission systems flight. Meeting and exceeding all performance objectives, the sensor demonstrated flawless performance on the F-35 Lightning II BF-4 aircraft.
The APG-81 radar was first utilized aboard the BAC 1-11 airborne laboratory in August 2005. From then, the radar system, maturing all five software blocks, has managed to accumulate over 300 flight hours to its credit. The APG-81 radar’s flight on CATBird avionics test bed aircraft from Lockheed Martin took place in November 2008.
The sensor works on the Block 0.5 radar software integrated into the radar that was utilized in the F-35 flight test. This incorporates about 60% of the software and provides SAR modes as well as long range air-to-air search and track capabilities. The AN/APG-81 radar’s airborne target detection capabilities exceeded the F-18 and F-16 chase planes. Electronic warfare and radar fusion was also detected on the first flights.
According to Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector vice president of combat avionics, Jeff Leavitt, in the past five years, with the APG-81 radar, the company’s program success has been high and parallel to none. The company looks forward to demonstrate more advanced capabilities successive test flights. In June 2009, at Operation Northern Edge, APG-81 had shown exceptional electronic protection capabilities. Five years’ experience in test bed flight-testing with critical radar sensors, in combination with the performance on the F-35 aircraft, signifies mature capability reduced risk to the F-35 program.