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Ready, Set, Seek: US Navy Approves F/A-18 Super Hornet Infrared Search and Track System

The F/A-18 Super Hornet infrared search and track (IRST) system, developed and integrated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, received approval from the U.S. Navy to enter low-rate initial production.  

An F/A-18 Super Hornet prepares for landing during flight testing. Lockheed Martin photo
An F/A-18 Super Hornet prepares for landing during flight testing.
Lockheed Martin photo

The IRST system consists of Lockheed Martin’s IRST21™ sensor, the GE Aviation FPU-13 Fuel Tank Assembly and the Meggitt Defense Industry Environmental Control unit. The system demonstrated its production readiness through a series of extensive assessments and reviews, including flight tests.  

The long –range sensor IRST21 sensor uses infrared search and track technology to detect, track and enable the Super Hornet to engage threats with air-to-air weapons.  

“This ‘see first, strike first’ capability can be used in a variety of threat environments and is a game changer for our warfighters as we combat future adversaries,” said U.S. Navy F/A-18 program manager Capt. Frank Morley.  

In addition to detecting airborne threats, IRST significantly enhances multiple target resolution compared to radar, providing greater discrimination of threat formations at longer ranges. Data from the IRST21 sensor is fused with other on-board F/A-18 sensor data to provide maximum situational awareness to the warfighter.  

IRST is expected to deploy on the F/A-18 Super Hornet in 2017.

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