The SABR system within the F-16 fighter aircraft. (photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman)
To extend the effectiveness of the US Air Force’s F-16 fighter aircraft beyond 2025, the aircraft will be enhanced by the addition of a new Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) system. The improved radar capabilities will keep the F-16 a vital component within the Air Force’s fighter force structure and is one of the many steps taken by the F-16 Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite (CAPES) program.
The SABR system, developed by Northrop Grumman, includes Big Synthetic Aperture Radar (Big SAR) mapping, allowing for broader all-environment precision mapping. It also includes auto target cueing and recognition, which improve situational awareness and combat identification. The SABR system also increases air-to-air and air-to-surface detection, as well as tracking and weapons employment ranges. Its mode interleaving improves situational awareness and survivability.
CAPES program objectives are to mitigate critical future capability gaps, provide advanced electronic protection, enhance situational awareness and survivability, and provide options to meet force structure requirements with modernized F-16s. SABR has become the centerpiece for the program, adding said electronic protection, including modes ported directly from the F-35's AN/APG-81 radar, which account for 95% of fifth-generation active electronically scanned array (AESA) modes.