TAIPEI — South Korea has selected Raytheon over Northrop Grumman to provide active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radars for upgrades to its fighter jets, said Jim Hvizd, vice president of International Strategy and Business Development for Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems Division, during a teleconference on April 10.
The Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) beat the Northrop Grumman Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) for South Korea’s AESA requirement. The radars will be part of upgrades for the country’s 134 KF-16C/D Block 52 fighters.
This is a not a contract award, but a “selection,” Hvizd said. Raytheon will work with the U.S. government as the process moves forward first as a letter of request, then as a letter of acceptance, and finally as a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) case, he said. Hvizd could not provide a price tag for the radar integration, but did indicate deliveries would begin in late 2016 with final delivery in 2021.
A Northrop Grumman spokeswoman declined to comment for this story, citing company policy not to comment on ongoing competitions.
“RACR complements and leverages Raytheon’s F-16 avionics heritage to provide the lowest risk, most affordable and highest reliability AESA retrofit solution,” Hvizd said.
He said RACR met all of South Korea’s requirements, which were four categories: performance, operational suitability, costs and contract and schedule.
Some defense industry sources indicated Raytheon had a head start on Northrop with the release of DSP-5 export license from the U.S. government in 2008. Northrop secured its export license in January 2012.
The DSP-5, authorized by the U.S. State Department, is the first step in the Foreign Military Sales program managed by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
The winner of the fighter radar competition could create a winner-take-all effect in competitions happening in Taiwan now and in Singapore later.
Both companies are fighting over Taiwan’s upgrade program for 145 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters. A decision on the radar is expected this summer, said a local Taiwan defense industry source. However, unlike the South Korean competition, the U.S. Air Force will make Taiwan’s radar selection.
In September 2011, the U.S. released a $5.3 billion F-16 upgrade package that included AESA radar to Taiwan.
Taiwan has objected to conditions set forth by the U.S. Air Force that Taiwan’s Air Force pay for the nonrecurring engineering (NRE) costs for integrating the radar. An NRE is the one-time cost to research, develop, design and test a new system. If the U.S. selects the RACR for Taiwan, much of the NRE costs will be shared with South Korea, but if it selects the Northrop Grumman SABR, then NRE costs skyrocket, a second Taiwan defense industry source said.
There are also fears the U.S. will ignore Taiwan’s defense needs and simply select SABR in an effort to provide the U.S. Air Force with two ongoing AESA options for radar upgrades of 350 F-16 Block 40/50 fighters for a $2.8 billion fighter modernization program. This move saves the U.S. money by forcing South Korea and Taiwan to pay for the NRE for both radars.
On the NRE issue, Hvizd said system integration is a “major program activity” and South Korea and Taiwan have different system integrators. Lockheed Martin is handling Taiwan’s integration under the USAF and BAE won the KF-16 integration competition in July 2012. The overall upgrade for Korea’s KF-16s is estimated at around $1.1 billion.
“The overall scope in Korea will include design, development activities, test and integration with the system integrator [BAE] and then the final production of 134 systems,” he said.
“Korea will work the details of the development and production with the U.S. government as the basis to form an eventual” letter of offer and response for a letter of offer and acceptance.
Aaron Mehta contributed to this report.