The Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing [BA] an $89 million contract on Thursday to fully incorporate the Block II Infrared Search and Track System (IRST) into the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter jet

The IRST system is a passive, long-range sensor that searches for and detects infrared emissions. The system can simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology. The IRST is produced by Lockheed Martin [LMT], who supplies it to Boeing under the IRST Block II program.

A Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet.  Photo: Boeing.
A Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. Photo: Boeing.

This cost-plus-incentive-free contract includes the initial design and development, procurement of prototyping hardware, technical risk reduction efforts, integrated product support, and technical reviews of IRST Block II with the F/A-18E/F to support the system through preliminary design review.

The F/A-18 E/F currently has an IRST system, the Lockheed Martin IRST21, mounted on the nose section of the centerline fuel tank. However, the Block II IRST is planned to eventually be integrated into the aircraft’s structure itself.

The IRST is one of the major elements of the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Block III, which features various updates over the existing Block II variant currently in use. Other updates include conformal fuel tanks, newer datalinks, and a new cockpit display.

$21 million in 2017 Navy research, development, test, and evaluation funds was obligated at award time and none of that will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The work is expected to be finished in April 2020.