Raytheon will integrate its PhantomStrike radar to Korea Aerospace Industries’ (KAI) FA-50 light combat aircraft.

The new radar is a fully air-cooled fire-control radar designed to provide long-range threat detection, tracking and targeting.

Working alongside the US government, PhantomStrike was approved to be exported as a direct commercial sales product to KAI.

PhantomStrike is a first-of-its-kind, compact active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that is smaller, lighter and requires less power. It is designed for a wide range of platforms including light-attack aircraft, rotary-wing aircraft, uncrewed aerial vehicles, and ground-based towers.

President of Global Spectrum Dominance at Raytheon, Annabel Flores stated: “Outfitting the FA-50 with the PhantomStrike radar upgrades the capability of a critical aircraft, providing unparalleled performance in a compact, affordable package. All while keeping these jets fast, agile and easy to maintain.”

The radar combines two central components – a gallium nitride-powered array and the compact high-reliability integrated receiver/exciter processor (CHIRP) – to match the capability of modern AESA radars. The upgrades provide capabilities including digital beam forming and steering, multimode functionality, and interleaved ground and air targeting.

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Production of the radars will take place in Forest, Mississippi; Tucson, Arizona; and Scotland, with support from Raytheon UK. Initial deliveries are expected in 2025.

AESA radar systems

US defence prime Northrop Grumman has led the innovations in AESA radar technology for more than 60 years. The company’s airborne radars provide through-the-weather strategic and tactical surveillance. An AESA radar gives commanders the situational awareness and intelligence they need in multi-domain operations.

The company is the sole supplier of AESA radar technologies for both the US Air Force’s fifth generation platforms: the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

the AESA radar is an integral fifth-generation asset as Lockheed Martin markets the F-16 fighter jet as a platform that can be easily be adapted with fifth-generation capabilities.

However, Raytheon’s PhantomStrike could throw a spanner into the works as Northrop Grumman’s prime posture as a sole supplier of AESA radars now seems to be compromised.

Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-81 AESA radar is its latest variant, which the company emphasizes is the most capable AESA radar in the world” as it is integrated into the F-35 system of systems. At the same time, it appears the PhantomStrike provides battlefield situational awareness while reducing the burden on the platform at half the size and weight.