Northrop should start production of APG-83 radar for F-16 in 2023

WASHINGTON, US — In 2023, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems [NGMS] is scheduled to begin full production of the latest APG-83 radars for the F-16 fighter jets. This is according to the report of the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation [DOT&E]. That is the plan, but the report mentions that there is a possible risk regarding the timing of the production.

Northrop should start production of APG-83 radars for F-16 in 2023
Photo credit: DOT&E

APG-83 has already passed several tests in 2022. In the third quarter of last year, the evaluation of the tests presented strong evidence that the radars outperformed the legacy. The APG-68 currently on board the F-16 is an outdated system, the report said.

This radar has an outdated mission computer that cannot meet modern warfare requirements. In addition to the computer, the data network is also outdated, and the network architecture is found to be insufficient.

APG-83 will be suitable

APG-83 will be suitable, the DOT&E report says. Radar has a huge improvement in legacy maintainability. For example, the narrow clearances between the fairing and the air data system have been improved.

Test pilots say they are doing very well with the human-systems interface, with the report saying pilots are “satisfied” in this regard. However, there were compromises that Northrop had to make to integrate the radar with existing F-16 systems.

One of the trade-offs is that the pilot receives an increased workload when performing multiple tasks simultaneously. According to the explanation in the DOT&E report, the load occurs when switching between different displays in the radar mode and the function used.

APG-83 mission

The APG-83 is a radar designed to provide F-16 pilots with the full kill chain against air, ground, and surface beyond-visual-range targets. Pilots use the aircraft’s radar and weapons systems simultaneously to achieve their kill missions.

Jordan asked for 16 F-16 Block 70 fighters and 21 GE engines
Photo credit: Wikipedia

APG-83 works in all weather conditions. As a specific improvement over the legacy system, it enables the APG-83 to target and engage from longer ranges with increased accuracy and combat identification.

Delay and referrals

Although the APG-83 shows excellent test results, there is a delay in the plan. As mentioned at the beginning, there is a risk regarding meeting the planned time for testing and production of the new F-16 radar.

The DOT&E report noted this delay, which the report attributed to inconsistent program funding and unexpected engineering challenges. This leads not only to delay in the testing and production of the radar but also to the delay of other components and systems of the F-16 design.

Tests conducted so far

To date, the APG-83 radar has successfully passed several tests. Among them are cybernetic survivability tests, as well as an investigation of the vulnerability of a radar installed on an F-16 aircraft. The last test we mentioned took place at the end of the first Thursday of 2022, in April.

In 2023, several tests are planned until the middle of the year. The first is as early as next month in February when the radar will have to undergo some laboratory testing at Hill AFB, Utah. At the same time, the radar must receive its adversarial assessment.


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