Lockheed Martin to upgrade IRST21 sensors on F/A-18E/F jets

The IRST21 sensor system is mounted in the nose of the U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F's centerline fuel tank. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Boeing has recently awarded Lockheed Martin two contracts to upgrade its IRST21 sensor system for use on the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F fleet.

The Block II contracts provide up to $100 million for developing advanced software, performing hardware upgrades and delivering prototypes. These efforts will further enhance IRST21’s proven detection, tracking and ranging capabilities in radar-denied environments.

“The U.S. Navy’s strategic block upgrade program enables us to continue advancing our technology and rapidly deliver it to the warfighter,” said Paul Lemmo, vice president of Fire Control/Special Operations Forces Contractor Logistics Support Services at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “We are excited to implement the Block II upgrades and enhance IRST21’s performance.”

The IRST21 sensor system uses infrared search and track technology to detect and track airborne threats. Compared to radar, IRST21 significantly enhances the resolution of multiple targets, enabling pilots to accurately identify threat formations at longer ranges. This “see first, strike first” capability empowers pilots with greater reaction time, improving survivability.

IRST21 is the next generation of Lockheed Martin’s legacy IRST sensor system, which accumulated more than 300,000 flight hours on the U.S. Navy’s F-14 and on international F-15 platforms. Currently, IRST21 flies mounted in the F/A-18E/F’s centerline fuel tank.

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