Navy F/A-18E/F IRST21 Infrared Sensor System Detects and Tracks Airborne Threats

Navy F/A-18E/F IRST21 Infrared Sensor System Detects and Tracks Airborne Threats

What is the F/A-18E/F?

The Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet are twin-engine carrier-capable multirole fighter aircraft variants based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F tandem-seat variants are larger and more advanced derivatives of the F/A-18C and D Hornet. The Super Hornet has an internal 20 mm M61 rotary cannon and can carry air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface weapons. Additional fuel can be carried in up to five external fuel tanks and the aircraft can be configured as an airborne tanker by adding an external air refueling system.

What is new in the technology of the F/A-18E/F?

The F/A-18E/F has an advanced airborne infrared sensor system. Announced October 19, 2017, Lockheed Martin recently received two contracts to upgrade its IRST21 sensor system for use on the U.S. Navy's F/A-18E/F fleet.

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 IRST21 sensor system uses infrared search and track technology to detect and track airborne threats. Compared to radar, IRST21 airborne infrared sensor system 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. Currently, IRST21 flies mounted in the F/A-18E/F's centerline fuel tank.