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US Air National Guard F-16s complete SABR AESA radar upgrade

F-16 AESA upgrade
US Air Force photo of an F-16 fighter with the SABR AESA radar

The US Air Force has officially completed the project to upgrade Air National Guard F-16s with new AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radars (SABR).

The fighters received the upgrades based on a US Northern Command Joint Emergent Operational Need (JEON) for homeland defense with an eye on countering the threat from Russian cruise missiles.

SABR extends the operational viability and reliability of the Air National Guard F-16s and provides pilots with 5th generation fighter radar capabilities. The system is used in the suppression or destruction of enemy air defenses, to include targeting radars and surface-air-missiles. It also improves existing air-to-air capabilities and enhances air-to-ground mapping.

With this upgrade, the APG-83 radar is flying operationally on 72 jets stationed at nine US Air National Guard bases throughout the country.

Air National Guard F-16 are actually the first F-16 airframes in the US fleet to fly the 5th generation fighter AESA radars. Northrop Grumman announced the completion of the upgrade after the Air Force declared full operational capability for the radar in 2020.

“The completion of these deliveries highlights Northrop Grumman’s continued commitment to rapidly field 5th generation radar capability to the fleet to counter and defeat increasingly sophisticated threats to our nation and its allies,” said Mark Rossi, director, SABR programs, Northrop Grumman. “Through our continued partnership with the Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, we are providing enhanced radar capabilities with ongoing agile software developments that will keep pilots ahead of adversaries for years to come.”

Northrop Grumman says the greater bandwidth, speed and agility of the APG-83 will enable the F-16 to detect, track and identify a greater number of targets faster and at longer ranges. In addition, it features all-weather, high-resolution synthetic aperture radar mapping to present the pilot with a large surface image for more precise target identification and strike compared to legacy systems.

The US Air Force plans to upgrade the rest of its F-16s with the AESA radars by 2025. This will be done as part of a larger $6.3 billion contract that will include 608 F-16 fighters from more than 18 bases.