RTX, a defence supplier formerly branded as ‘Raytheon’, has delivered its first Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system for the US Air Force’s B-52 Stratofortress bomber fleet.

The USAF will use this first radar for system integration, verification, and testing.

The American defence prime initially agreed to build and deliver its APG-79 AESA radar systems to Boeing, the original equipment manufacturer for the B-52, in a contract signed in July 2019 and comes under the ‘US Air Force’s B-52 Radar Modernization Program’.

“Outfitting the B-52 with an AESA radar replaces its current 1960’s radar technology,” says Michelle Styczynski, vice president of Agile Radar Solutions at RTX. “With an AESA radar on board, the B-52 will gain improved navigation and targeting capabilities in higher threat areas.”

A legacy system that has adapted to the times

Currently, the USAF uses a legacy radar known as the ALR-20A radar warning system for the 76 units in its B-52H Stratofortress fleet. The USAF used the ALR-20A since the 1960’s and it contains some antiquated components.

Since the inception of this enduring radar, the US Air Force has adapted the B-52’s electronic countermeasures over the years to keep up to date with the latest capabilities. These other systems include Northrop Grumman’s ALR-46 digital warning receiver, which detects radar emissions in the 2GHz to 18GHz band and can simultaneously identify up to 16 radar signals, as well as Northrop’s ALQ-155 jammer power management system, which provides 360-degree coverage.

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AESA radar technology

RTX’s combat-proven APG-79 AESA radar is already used as part of US Navy’s F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet multi-purpose aircraft.

The system delivers increased air-to-air and air-to-surface targeting and tracking capabilities through near speed of light beam steering.

Built with open system architecture and commercial-off-the-sheet parts, the APG-79 still delivers on reliability and increased capability.

Under the contract, Raytheon is designing, developing, and producing the radar systems for the entire US Air Force B-52 fleet. The advanced radar upgrade will ensure the aircraft remains relevant and mission ready through its lifetime.

RTX will produce the radars in Forest, Mississippi and El Segundo, California. RTX will deliver the remaining test-phase radars through the summer of 2024.