Lockheed Martin has recently received two contracts to upgrade its IRST21 sensor system for use on the U.S. Navy’s fleet of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet jet fighters.
Awarded by aircraft prime contractor Boeing, the Block II contracts provide up to $100 million for developing advanced software, performing hardware upgrades and delivering prototypes. 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 sensor system uses infrared search and track (IRST) technology to detect and track airborne threats. Compared to radar, it 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.
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.
A compact design enables IRST21 to be integrated in a variety of ways. On the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, IRST21 is currently mounted on the nose section of the centerline fuel tank. A podded sensor system with IRST21 is also in development and will be transportable across a wide range of platforms including the F-15C and F-16.