By Marina Malenic

Boeing [BA] has chosen Raytheon [RTN] as its subcontractor on a $238 million System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract to modernize the radar system on the Air Force’s F-15E Strike Eagle fighter aircraft, the companies said last week.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] had also made a bid for the work, offering a version of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) it is manufacturing for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The modernization program will incorporate a new AESA antenna and electronics, company executives told reporters during an Oct. 30 teleconference. Raytheon’s AESA, the APG- 63(V)4, will replace the APG-70 radar currently on the F-15E.

Reliability and performance will be improved while reducing support costs, according to Mike Henchey, the head of business development for Raytheon space and airborne systems. When integrated into the F-15E weapons system, the AESA radar will improve detection and tracking of enemy targets in the air and on the ground, Henchey said.

During the SDD phase, Raytheon will produce developmental and flight-test units and support Boeing’s integration of the AESA into the F-15E. The integration activity will take place at Boeing facilities in St. Louis before the developmental and initial operational test and evaluation flight programs.

A flight test program will begin under SDD in the first quarter of fiscal year 2011, said Nan Soehngen, Boeing director for U.S. Air Force programs.

Initial operational capability is expected in fiscal year 2014 “with at least 12 airplanes,” Henchy said.

Soehngen said Boeing officials have told the Air Force that 12-48 Strike Eagles can be retrofitted annually.

“We understand the government intends to retrofit all the aircraft,” she said. She added that a Defense Department decision on low-rate production is scheduled for 2011.

Raytheon is also on contract to provide the Air National Guard’s F-15Cs with the APG-63(V)3 AESA, and Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets recently received the Raytheon APG-79 AESA.

The AESA for the F-15E will be more powerful, Henchey said, and will support the Air Force’s unique mission requirements.