USMC legacy Hornet flies with Raytheon's new APG-79(V)4 AESA radar

Raytheon Intelligence and Space (RI&S) announced on May 10 that a pre-production version of the company’s APG-79(V)4 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar had successfully completed its first flight on a US Marine Corps (USMC)-operated legacy Hornet.

This sortie – which was conducted earlier this year by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 (VX-31) ‘Dust Devils’ from Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake in California – marked the AESA radar’s first flight on a USMC-operated Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet since RI&S delivered the initial prototype to the service in 2021. During this initial flight, the USMC pilot demonstrated the radar’s successful integration with the legacy Hornet’s avionics systems.

APG-79(V)4 AESA radar USMC F/A-18D [Raytheon Intelligence & Space]
Raytheon's new APG-79(V)4 radar system employs GaN-AESA FCR technology, which will allow USMC legacy Hornet pilots to detect and track enemy aircraft at greater ranges and with more accuracy. RI&S

Commenting on the flight, Thomas Shaurette – vice president of F/A-18 and Global Strike Radars for RI&S – said: “Following successful ground testing and the delivery of the prototype radar, this flight test was critical to observe performance in the air. It allowed our partners to see the V4 radar’s enhanced detection and tracking abilities in real-time.”

As a scaled derivative of the legacy AN/APG-79 radar, the new APG-79(V)4 shares technological and parts commonality with the US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler fleets to further optimise operational costs and sustainment. The APG-79(V)4 also employs the first airborne gallium nitride (GaN)-AESA fire-control radar (FCR), which is designed to help pilots detect and track adversary aircraft at greater ranges with a higher degree of accuracy, while meeting the legacy platform’s power and cooling requirements. “Flight tests [with the APG-79(V)4] will continue to support weapons system integration on the fleet,” RI&S added.

In 2021, US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded RI&S additional contract modifications to equip the USMC’s legacy Hornet fleet with more APG-79(V)4 radar systems. The firm states that “the total production value [of the system] for domestic and foreign military sales customers is over $300m.”