Boeing taps Lockheed Martin for US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Block II IRST21 contract

Boeing taps Lockheed Martin for US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Block II IRST21 contract

Lockheed Martin has received a contract for the second phase of development and testing for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block II infrared search and track (IRST) program for the U.S. Navy. The award, was placed by the prime Super Hornet contractor Boeing and will include development, integration and flight testing of the IRST21 Block II sensor package. The technology is fitted on the nose of the F/A-18E/F combat jet’s centreline fuel tank, while it is fitted in the Legion Pod on other fighter and on-fighter aerial platforms.

The IRST21 sensor uses infrared to locate and track airborne targets in radar-denied environments, or when a passive system is needed to avoid detection. IRST21 is currently mounted on the F/A-18E/F’s centerline fuel tank, and has seen use in an underwing pod version on the F-14 Tomcat, now retired, and the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. Currently, the IRST is in full-rate production and has logged more than 300,000 flight hours on the US Navy’s F-14 and F/A-18E/F fighters, international F-15 jets, as well as the USAF’s F-15C and F-16 platforms.

The IRST21 infrared sensor system is seen mounted on a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The IRST21 infrared sensor system is seen mounted on a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.


The infrared search and track (IRST) autonomously detects and tracks airborne targets at long ranges, and can merge the data with the fighters’ other sensors to provide a multi-dimensional view of threats. Its passive operation allows target detection and tracking without giving away the plane’s location and identification with detectable radar transmissions. As a proven provider of IRST technology for more than 30 years, Lockheed Martin has left its mark. To date, the team has delivered more than 350 systems worldwide and consistently advanced its IRST capabilities across a variety of platforms.

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is the primary carrier- and land-based multi-role fighter of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. The US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet maritime strike attack aircraft is armed with 11 weapon stations, which include two additional wing store stations. It helps support a complete range of armaments, including AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. Manufactured by Boeing, Block II aircraft is fitted with a redesigned forward fuselage, which has fewer parts, in addition to changes to the aircraft’s nose to accommodate the Raytheon APG-79 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

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