USAF Pulls Funding For F-15 IRST Upgrade

Mar 15, 2011

By Amy Butler

The U.S. Air Force has terminated funding for an infrared search and track (IRST) upgrade for its F-15C/D fleet as part of the service’s push last year to produce savings for the Pentagon’s fiscal 2012 budget.

Air Force officials say that the effort was designed to provide “the only USAF search and targeting capability in the infrared spectrum designed specifically for air-to-air, providing air-to-air attack capability in a radar-denied environment on the F-15C/D.” The system could be useful for air-to-air fighter engagements as well as cruise missile targeting and ballistic missile early warning. Lockheed Martin provides the sensor for the pod.

However, the service opted to remove research and development funding for the program in fiscal 2012 and beyond, according to Air Force officials. In the budget, they propose pulling $34.9 million in fiscal 2012 and a total of $345 million across the future year defense plan (including 2012).

Boeing, which is the prime contractor for the F-15, says that it continues to work with the Air Force to “explore options” for the program.

Air Force officials cite “technical challenges” with the F-15 version as their rationale. However, they also say that a version of the IRST designed for the Navy is “behind schedule.”

Navy officials, however, say that the effort is proceeding as planned. “The Navy’s F/A-18 IRST program is meeting program cost and schedule requirements,” says Marcia Hart-Wise, a spokeswoman for the service’s Super Hornet program.

The Navy version is ahead of that planned for the F-15 in its programmatic schedule. Because the Navy’s deliveries of F-35s come later than the Air Force’s and because its fleet of Super Hornets must remain operationally relevant longer than some Air Force legacy fighters, the service is spending money on its F/A-18E/Fs to keep them in the fight. One industry official notes that the use of an IRST is required because radars run the risk of being jammed at critical moments. The Navy is still buying Super Hornets and plans to buy an additional 41 aircraft owing to delays in the F-35 schedule.

The Super Hornet IRST system is mounted on the front of a 400-gal. centerline fuselage fuel tank.

Source : AviationWeek

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