LOCKHEED MARTIN TO UPGRADE U.S. NAVY F/A-18E/F’s IRST21 SENSOR

LOCKHEED MARTIN TO UPGRADE U.S. NAVY F/A-18E/F’s IRST21 SENSOR

By Dario Leone
Oct 21 2017
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IRST21 flies mounted in the F/A-18E/F’s centerline fuel tank

Lockheed Martin has secured two contracts from Boeing to upgrade its IRST21 sensor system for use on the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F fleet.

The company says $100 million will be spent “developing advanced software, performing hardware upgrades and delivering prototypes.”

According to a Lockheed Martin news release, these efforts will further enhance IRST21’s proven detection, tracking and ranging capabilities in radar-denied environments.

“The U.S. Navy’s strategic block upgrade program enables us to continue advancing our technology and rapidly deliver it to the warfighter,” said Paul Lemmo, vice president of Fire Control/Special Operations Forces Contractor Logistics Support Services at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “We are excited to implement the Block II upgrades and enhance IRST21’s performance.”

The IRST21 sensor system uses infrared search and track technology to detect and track airborne threats. Compared to radar, IRST21 significantly enhances the resolution of multiple targets, enabling pilots to accurately identify threat formations at longer ranges. This “see first, strike first” capability empowers pilots with greater reaction time, improving survivability.

VFA-115 F/A-18E Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F/A-18E Super Hornet VFA-115 Eagles, NK200 / 165781 / 2006

IRST21 is the next generation of Lockheed Martin’s legacy IRST sensor system, which accumulated more than 300,000 flight hours on the U.S. Navy’s F-14 and on international F-15 platforms. Currently, IRST21 flies mounted in the F/A-18E/F’s centerline fuel tank.

Noteworthy this IRST21 upgrade is just one of the several improvements the U.S. Navy has planned for its Super Hornet fleet. As we have previously reported in fact, in April the service has awarded to General Electric (GE)a $114.8 million contract aimed to install new engines on the service F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft.

Lokcheed Martin to upgrade U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F’s IRST21 sensor

The new engine could be the so called General Electric’s enhanced performance engine (EPE), that would increase the F414-GE-400’s power output from 22,000 lbs to 26,400 lbs. EPE development commenced in 2009 and features several improvements over the standard F414-GE-400, including greater resistance to foreign object damage, reduced fuel burn rate, and potentially increased thrust of up to 20%.

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin and

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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