Minnesota ANG boosts F-16 capabilities with AN/ASQ-236 AESA radar pod (it complements the recent fielding APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar)

Minnesota ANG boosts F-16 capabilities with AN/ASQ-236 AESA radar pod (it complements the recent fielding APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar)

By Dario Leone
Feb 28 2023
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The AN/ASQ-236 AESA radar pod provides Combat Air Forces with the ability to geo-locate points of interest day or night, in adverse weather conditions and complements the recent fielding of the APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar.

Subject matter experts from Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command, the Air National Guard, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC) and 148th Fighter Wing of Minnesota Air National Guard gathered at Duluth Air National Guard Base flying unit to exercise the end-to-end employment of the recently fielded AN/ASQ-236 Radar pod and create a plan how the Air National Guard will operationalize the AN/ASQ-236 radar pod for all ANG F-16 fighter aircraft, Jan. 24-26, 2023. As told by By Audra Flanagan, 148th Fighter Wing, in the article AN/ASQ-236 Modernizes Air National Guard and 148th Fighter Wing F-16 capabilities, this exercise was a culmination of many months of software and hardware modifications to the aircraft, software and support equipment. The 148th Fighter Wing was first to accomplish all of the requirements for the F-16 operational fleet.

The AN/ASQ-236 Dragon’s Eye pod is an externally mounted Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) pod that provides detailed maps for surveillance, coordinate generation and bomb impact assessment purposes. The pod provides Combat Air Forces with the ability to geo-locate points of interest day or night, in adverse weather conditions and complements the recent fielding of the APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar (FCR) by the 148th Maintenance Group.

Minnesota ANG boosts F-16 capabilities with AN/ASQ-236 AESA radar pod (it complements the recent fielding APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar)
An F-16CM Fighting Falcon assigned to the 148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard, prepares to take off on Jan. 26, 2023. This was the first flight for any Post-Block F-16 carrying the AN/ASQ-236 radar pod.

After Operation Desert Storm, the US Air Force (USAF) recognized the need for an all-weather precision geo-location and reconnaissance system with the reliability inherent in active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. The US Air Force and Northrop Grumman designed, fabricated and tested the system now known as the AN/ASQ-236. The pod is already operational on the F-15E Strike Eagle.

The AN/ASQ-236 Radar Pod contains synthetic aperture radar that provides detailed maps for surveillance, coordinate generation and bomb impact assessment purposes.

The radar pod is a self-contained system consisting of an antenna, inertial navigation system, and environmental cooling system. The antenna is attached to a positioner plate that allows it to move about the roll axis.

Minnesota ANG boosts F-16 capabilities with AN/ASQ-236 AESA radar pod (it complements the recent fielding APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar)
Fighter Aircraft Integrated Avionics specialists assigned to the 148th Fighter Wing, Minnesota Air National Guard, install an AN/ASQ-236 radar pod on Jan. 25, 2023.

The pod design also incorporates a fully automated built-in-test, or BIT, that indicates the health of the system to the operator and maintenance crews. The BIT allows fault isolation to the line-replaceable module level enabling high system availability.

The 148th Fighter Wing, which flies the Block 50 F-16CM, has been designated as the Air National Guard’s Center for Excellence for the AN/ASQ-236. “As the Center of Excellence, the 148th will retain expertise in the loading, distribution, training and employment of the AN/ASQ-236 and the capabilities it brings to the warfighter,” said 148th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Nathan Aysta.

The team of cross-organizational experts from both Operations and Maintenance had a clear set of objectives for the week-long team visit. Those goals included installing the ASQ-236 and validating flight operations on Post-Block F-16s using unique software programs.

Minnesota ANG boosts F-16 capabilities with AN/ASQ-236 AESA radar pod (it complements the recent fielding APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar)
Subject matter experts from Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command, the Air National Guard, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC) and 148th Fighter Wing pose for a photo after the first AN/ASQ-236 radar was installed on an Block 50 F-16 Fighting Falcon on Jan. 25, 2023. The 148th Fighter Wing has been designated as the Air National Guard’s Center for Excellence for all F-16 fighter aircraft.

“Pilots were trained by AATC subject matter experts on the pod’s software and aircraft systems integration, including troubleshooting and emergency procedures management,” said Maj. Michael “Ox” Kuzmuk, Chief of Wing Weapons for the 148th Fighter Wing. “Additionally, we trained to and refined best practices for mission planning and post flight analysis, which included post mission intelligence distribution,” added Kuzmuk.

Aircraft Armament Systems specialists, alongside AN/ASQ-236 program managers, installed the pylons for the pod while Fighter Aircraft Integrated Avionics specialists installed the AN/ASQ-236 with the intent to fly the pod.

The objectives were met, and the team saw Kuzmuk fly the first Post-Block F-16 with the AN/ASQ-236 on January 26, 2023. “This effort has been ongoing for many years,” said Annette Becker, F-16 Program Manager assigned to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. “The continued partnerships, successful execution and effective cross-talk have established courses of action for the Air National Guard to operationalize the AN/ASQ-236,” added Becker.

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The 148th Fighter Wing is one of only two Air National Guard wings multi-purposed Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD/DEAD) and NORAD Aerospace Control Alert-trained (ACA) Air National Guard flying unit located in Duluth, Minnesota.

The unit flies the Block 50 F-16CM, Fighting Falcon, the newest and most capable F-16 in the USAF Fleet.

Photo credit: Audra Flanagan / U.S. Air Force

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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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