Raytheon readies radar upgrade for KAI FA-50

Raytheon PhantomStrike
Concept image of Raytheon PhantomStrike radar on FA-50 aircraft. (Raytheon)

United States defence prime Raytheon announced that it will equip the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 light combat aircraft with its new PhantomStrike airborne fire control radar, the company announced on 15 May.

According to Raytheon, PhantomStrike is a fully air-cooled fire-control radar designed to provide long-range threat detection, tracking and targeting. Approval to export the radar to KAI was approved by the US government under the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) program.

An undisclosed number of PhantomStrike radar systems will be produced in Forest, Mississippi; Tucson, Arizona; and Scotland, with support from Raytheon UK. Initial deliveries are expected in 2025.

The company noted that PhantomStrike is a “first-of-its-kind, compact” active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that is smaller, lighter and requires less power and designed for a wide range of platforms including light-attack aircraft, rotary-wing aircraft, uncrewed aerial vehicles, and ground-based towers.

“Outfitting the FA-50 with the PhantomStrike radar upgrades the capability of a critical aircraft, providing unparalleled performance in a compact, affordable package,” said Annabel Flores, President, Global Spectrum Dominance at Raytheon Technologies.

Raytheon also explained that the radar combines the company’s gallium nitride-powered array and its compact high-reliability integrated receiver/exciter processor (CHIRP) which enables it to match the capability of modern AESA radars. It added that the radar upgrade will provide enhanced capabilities for the aircraft, including digital beam forming and steering, multimode functionality, and interleaved ground and air targeting.

“Threats on the battlefield always evolve, and PhantomStrike makes it possible for KAI to offer high-performance fire control radar capabilities that can integrate with US and international weapon systems, so FA-50 customers maintain air dominance,” added Flores.

KAI is looking to ride on the momentum of recent successes to further expand the global footprint of its FA-50 light attack aircraft and its lead-in trainer variant, the TA-50.

The company’s latest order comes from Malaysia, with KAI announcing in February 2023 a US$920 million deal to supply 18 FA-50 aircraft to Malaysia. The company was also awarded a deal to supply Poland with 48 FA-50PL aircraft worth up to US$3 billion in August 2022.

The first batch of 12 aircraft to Poland will be delivered in mid-2023, with the remainder to follow according to an undisclosed timeline. KAI will also establish a maintenance, repair, overhaul (MRO) centre in Poland as well as an international pilot training school using the FA-50 aircraft.

by Jr Ng