Ukraine wants its F-16 Block 20 fighters with AN/APG-83 radar

Ukraine is seeking improved F-16 fighters, expressing dissatisfaction with their current radar systems. Kyiv is requesting that the radars be upgraded before delivery, as they currently fail to match the range of Russian MiGs. 

F-16's smaller nose cone allows the Su-35 to blind Viper's radar
Photo by Staff Sgt. Sarah M. McClanahan

Ukrainian MP Alexandra Ustinova shared this information during a European Truth interview. Ustinova explained that discussions are ongoing regarding the modernization of F-16 fighter jets that are earmarked for delivery to Ukraine. She emphasized the need for superior radar and missile capabilities. “Merely delivering an aircraft equipped with a 60-kilometer radar, akin to the MiGs, is not of much consequence,” the Ukrainian MP asserted. 

Ustinova confirmed negotiations for improvements to the expected F-16 are in progress, but refrained from revealing details. The process proves to be a challenging communication endeavor with Ukraine’s allies, especially those in the United States.

Syria tried to take down Turkish F-16 with Russian-made S-200
Photo credit: Wikipedia

500kg bombs are a problem

Ustinova indirectly supports the widely held belief that Ukraine struggles to counteract Russia’s 500kg aerial bombs. She suggests that presently, Russia enjoys the advantage of dispatching a fighter jet well away from the front lines to deploy these formidable weapons, unmindful of any interception threats. 

Ustinova insists, “Our only possibility to intercept their planes, which inundate our frontline troops with 500-kilogram aerial bombs, is to enhance our radar capabilities.” Her statement underlines the urgency for a stronger radar system.

Ukraine wants AN/APG-83

Following Ustinova’s commentary, Ukrainian experts have expressed a positive opinion towards the AN/APG-83 radar. They believe that this advanced AESA radar is capable of fulfilling their needs, even if it’s paired with aging aircraft like the F-16 Block 20 MLU. 

The AN/APG-83 radar, commonly referred to as the Scalable Agile Beam Radar [SABR], is a product of Northrop Grumman’s innovative developments and was first introduced into the market in 2013. It was commissioned as a modern upgrade for the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft series. 

Regarding the financial aspect, the definitive price of the AN/APG-83 radar is influenced by various elements such as quantity ordered, installation expenses, and the inclusion of any supplementary features or services. To provide context, based on U.S. budget records, the APG-79 is priced around $3.5 million, whereas the APG-82 can command upwards of $5.5 million. 

As of now, a wide array of aircraft models come equipped with the AN/APG-83 radar. Beyond the latest F-16s, the radar system is now a part of other platforms like the F-15 Eagle and the F/A-18 Hornet. These aircraft models exploit the advanced features of the AN/APG-83 radar, providing them with enhanced target identification, tracking capabilities, and efficient engagement.

Time, again a key factor

Modernizing the Ukrainian F-16 fighter jets won’t be an overnight process, especially if Ukraine and the United States arrive at an agreement. Voices from Kyiv indicate that there could, in theory, be sufficient time during the pilots’ training for a portion of the planes destined for Ukraine to be upgraded. In fact, it’s suggested that by late spring 2024, the first of the F-16s could be gracing Ukrainian skies. 

However, outfitting an F-16 fighter with an AN/APG-83 radar requires a complicated, multistage process that can be quite lengthy. The exact timeline can be influenced by several factors, including resource availability, the scale of necessary alterations, and the proficiency of the team in charge. 

Typically, the entire integration process could span several months from inception to completion. The key phases include preliminary planning, design, development, testing, and finally, the installation of the radar system.

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