The AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar is a new development for the United States Navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft, providing a high level of aircrew situational awareness. The beam of the AESA radar provides nearly instantaneous track updates and multi-target tracking capability. The APG-79 AESA uses transmit/receive (TR) modules populated with GaAs MMICs. In the F/A-18E/F, the radar is installed in a slide-out nose rack to facilitate maintenance.
The APG-79 features an entirely solid-state antenna construction, which improves reliability and lowers the cost compared to a traditional system. The radome of the APG-79 for the F/A-18E/F slides forward instead of hinging to the right, which saves space in aircraft carrier hangars.[clarification needed]
The APG-79 is compatible with current F/A-18 weapon loads and enables aircrew to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM, simultaneously guiding several missiles to several targets widely spaced in azimuth, elevation or range.
The APG-79 radar completed formal operational evaluation (OPEVAL) testing in December 2006. As of January 2007 the radar was installed in 28 aircraft; some were experiencing software problems but that issue was expected to be resolved by the end of fiscal year 2007. As of July 2008, Raytheon had delivered 100 APG-79 sets to the Navy; on 3 June 2008, the Navy received the first APG-79-equipped EA-18G Growler. The Navy expects to order approximately 400 production radars.
In January 2013, the Director of Test & Evaluation (DOT&E) disclosed a long history of problems for the APG-79 radar in initial operational testing.
• DOT&E reported on APG-79 radar IOT&E [initial operational test and evaluation] in FY07, assessing it as not operationally effective or suitable due to significant deficiencies in tactical performance, reliability, and BIT functionality.
• The Navy conducted APG-79 radar FOT&E [follow-on test and evaluation] in FY09 in conjunction with SCS H4E SQT. The Navy’s Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force subsequently reported that significant deficiencies remained for both APG-79 AESA performance and suitability; DOT&E concurred with this assessment.
• The APG-79 AESA radar demonstrated marginal improvements since the previous FOT&E period and provides improved performance relative to the legacy APG-73 radar. However, operational testing does not demonstrate a statistically significant difference in mission accomplishment between F/A-18E/F aircraft equipped with AESA and those equipped with the legacy radar.
• Full development of AESA electronic warfare capability remains deferred to later software builds.
No date was predicted for the F/A-18 E/F Hornet's APG-79 radar reaching an operationally suitable status.