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US Navy Approves F/A-18 Super Hornet Infrared Search & Track (IRST) System for Production
 
The F/A-18 Super Hornet infrared search and track (IRST) system, developed and integrated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, received approval from the U.S. Navy to enter low-rate initial production.
The F/A-18 Super Hornet infrared search and track (IRST) system, developed and integrated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, received approval from the U.S. Navy to enter low-rate initial production.
 
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Naval Forces News - USA
 
 
 
US Navy Approves F/A-18 Super Hornet Infrared Search & Track (IRST) System for Production
 
The F/A-18 Super Hornet infrared search and track (IRST) system, developed and integrated by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, received approval from the U.S. Navy to enter low-rate initial production.
     
The IRST system consists of Lockheed Martin’s IRST21 sensor that can detect targets over long distances and operates in environments where radar isn’t an option. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)
The IRST system consists of Lockheed Martin’s IRST21 sensor that can detect targets over long distances and operates in environments where radar isn’t an option. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)
     
The IRST system consists of Lockheed Martin’s IRST21™ sensor, the GE Aviation FPU-13 Fuel Tank Assembly and the Meggitt Defense Industry Environmental Control unit. The system demonstrated its production readiness through a series of extensive assessments and reviews, including flight tests.

“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,” said U.S. Navy F/A-18 program manager Capt. Frank Morley. IRST is expected to deploy on the F/A-18 Super Hornet in 2017.
     
The crew of the F/A-18 Super Hornet carrying the Navy’s Infrared Search and Track (IRST), a long-wave infrared sensor system that searches for and detects heat sources within its field of regard, inspects the aircraft Feb. 11 before the maiden flight with the pod at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
The crew of the F/A-18 Super Hornet carrying the Navy’s Infrared Search and Track (IRST), a long-wave infrared sensor system that searches for and detects heat sources within its field of regard, inspects the aircraft Feb. 11 before the maiden flight with the pod at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
     
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 international F-15 platforms. The long-range IRST21 sensor uses infrared search and track technology to detect, track and enable the Super Hornet to engage threats with air-to-air weapons.

“Lockheed Martin and Boeing have proven the maturity of the IRST21 sensor and the IRST system and are poised to get this advanced capability out to the fleet to support Navy carrier strike group objectives,” said Ken Fuhr, fixed wing program director at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
     
IRST21 can be mounted in a variety of ways, including the nose section of the F/A-18E/F’s centerline fuel tank. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)
IRST21 can be mounted in a variety of ways, including the nose section of the F/A-18E/F’s centerline fuel tank. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)
     
In addition to detecting airborne threats, IRST significantly enhances multiple target resolution compared to radar, providing greater discrimination of threat formations at longer ranges. Data from the IRST21 sensor is fused with other on-board F/A-18 sensor data to provide maximum situational awareness to the warfighter.

“The IRST system is another example of how we continue to evolve Super Hornet capabilities to ensure it outpaces future adversaries,” said Tim Adrian, F/A-18 IRST program manager at Boeing.

UPDATE: Contacted by Navy Recognition, an Boeing Defense spokesperson explained that "the IRST Pod carries 330 gal of fuel in the fuel tank assembly". This means that the pod still acts as an external fuel tank and the IRST feature does not sacrifices range much.