Making waves

Northrop Grumman’s MESA radar is making waves, but what are its prospects?

Northrop Grumman’s MESA radar is a prominent feature on the E-7A Wedgetail aircraft
Staff Sgt John Linzmeier

“AESA radars can detect and track targets far more quickly than mechanically scanned radars, which is a critical factor in air warfare”

It was the plane that never was. In 2003, a triumvirate of Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon received a development contract from the US Department of Defense (DOD) to develop what would become known as the E-10 MC2A (Multi-Sensor Command and Control Aircraft).

The E-10 MC2A programme was an ambitious undertaking. Based on Boeing’s 767-400ER airframe, it was to replace a quartet of US Air Force (USAF) platforms, namely the Boeing E-3B/C/G Sentry Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC), E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, E-4B strategic command and control and RC-135V/W Rivet Joint Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft.

Combining this plethora of missions into one airframe was a vexing challenge and matters quickly began to go awry. The USAF planned to roll the MC2A’s capabilities on to the aircraft via ‘spiral’ developments. The JSTARSstyle ground surveillance role would be conferred on to the E-10 via Spiral-1, while Spiral-2 would add the airborne early warning radar, taking the form of

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