The U.S. Air Force has chosen Northrop Grumman [NOC] to finish an electronic warfare (EW) suite for the Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-16 fighter fleet under an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreement for prototyping, the company said Jan. 11.

The service issued the agreement under the New Hampshire-based System of Systems Consortium’s (SOSSEC) Air Force Open System Acquisition Initiative (OSAI).

“This critical capability will protect pilots from the growing danger of radio frequency-guided weapons by detecting, identifying and defeating advanced threat systems,” the company said. “Northrop Grumman will continue to team with non-traditional defense contractors for the execution of this OTA project.”

The EW suite “will significantly increase protection” for F-16s in contested environments and incorporates company lessons learned from multiple programs for “an effective and affordable solution to keep the Viper relevant throughout its service life,” according to Ryan Tintner, Northrop Grumman vice president for navigation, targeting and survivability.

The system is to provide full-spectrum radar warning, threat identification and advanced countermeasures, as well as “proven pulse-to-pulse operability with the F-16’s newly acquired AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR)” by Northrop Grumman.

In December 2019 the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a contract potentially worth $1 billion for 372 of the radars (Defense Daily, Oct. 15, 2020). The first jets receiving the radars were to be 72 Air National Guard (ANG) F-16s in response to a Joint Emergent Operational Need from U.S. Northern Command in 2017 for homeland defense to provide better detect and track capability against Russian cruise missiles.

The SABR is to provide 5th generation radar features akin to those on the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35 for the legacy fighter, which first flew in 1974.

Such Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) features include beyond line of sight, longer range air-to-air and air-to-ground targeting of multiple targets, such as air defense radars and cruise/surface to air missiles, and all-weather, high-resolution, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) ground mapping for improved strike.

The F-16 EW suite “leverages an open systems, ultra wideband architecture providing greater instantaneous bandwidth needed to defeat modern threats” and “shares a common technology baseline with the AC/MC-130J Radio Frequency Countermeasures Program and (Northrop Grumman) AN/APR-39 radar warning receivers,” Northrop Grumman said.