The US Navy has given its approval for low-rate initial production of the F/A-18 Super Hornet infrared search and track (IRST) system, which has been developed and integrated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
IRST is a passive, long-range sensor equipped with radar-jamming technology designed to simultaneously track multiple targets and provide air-to-air targeting capability when encountering advanced airborne threats.
US Navy F/A-18 programme manager captain Frank Morley said: "This see-first, strike-first capability can be used in a variety of threat environments and is a game changer for our warfighters as we combat future adversaries."
The system includes Lockheed's IRST21 sensor, the GE Aviation FPU-13 fuel tank assembly and the Meggitt Defense Industry environmental control unit.
IRST21 is the upgrade of Lockheed's legacy IRST sensor system, which accumulated more than 300,000 flight hours on the US Navy's F-14 and international F-15 platforms.
The long-range sensor uses F/A-18 sensor data to provide maximum situational awareness.
A series of extensive assessments and reviews, including flight tests, were conducted to demonstrate the system's production readiness on Super Hornet.
Boeing F/A-18 IRST programme manager Tim Adrian said: "The IRST system is another example of how we continue to evolve Super Hornet capabilities to ensure it outpaces future adversaries."
The Super Hornet is a multirole aircraft capable of performing a range of missions, including day / night strikes with precision-guided weapons, suppressing enemy air defences and reconnaissance operations.
The IRST is expected to be installed on the helicopter in 2017.
Image: Two US Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets fly a combat patrol over Afghanistan. Photo: courtesy of staff sgt Aaron Allmon, US Air Force.