Infrared Sensor Long Promised for F-22 Raptor Now Available

The F-22's infrared search and tracking sensor was cut from the program owing to budget constraints, but the Air Force is currently actively looking for it.

F-22 Raptor

The good old USA. The Air Force is moving forward with plans to install an IRST, or infrared search and tracking sensor, in the top-secret F-22 Raptor fighter. The F-22's original design for the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program included the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor, which provides the crucial ability to identify and track other aircraft at high altitudes, including those that are secret, passive, and immune.. war, but this was scrapped due to cost. After a long hiatus, the service is once again exploring options to reinstate the feature aboard the plane. An item in a recently published document under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program requested proposals related to the F-22's upgraded IRST capability.


In 2015, a pilot from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, landed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, as part of a deployment.

The Air Force will analyze the contractor's offering for potential integration into the fighter if it fits the criteria.

The Air Force has also published a document inviting private companies to submit proposals for meeting the following F-22 needs: cyber-intrusion detection and prevention; predictive maintenance; synthetic data generation; sensor fusion; enhanced scanning (radar); unmanned crew teaming; pilot-assisted autonomy; alternative GPS navigation; the Scorpion helmet display; the Red Air threat replication applications; optimized eavesdropping; real-time analysis (basic fighter maneuvers); and the comb filter. 

The F-22 Program Office has said that additional budgetary considerations not listed above are possible. As an alternative, the IRST-like capability might be built into an existing F-22 sensor, such as the AN/AAR-56 or MLD missile launch detection system. Currently, the Raptor pilot may use this system to detect air and ground-based missile threats from any angle. Invisibly small sensors situated behind windows make up part of the MLD system's network of optical components and assemblies, which is embedded in the aircraft's skin.

Although its precise function is unknown, the AN/AAR-56 system likely includes some concealed IRST improved capabilities. This system is not as well-known as others on the F-22. However, the system has been upgraded, and with the incorporation of new components based on cutting-edge technology, it is now possible to introduce a much broader infrared search and tracking function, allowing for the tracking of many more devices, aircraft, and missile targets that are invisible to the naked eye. 

The AN/AAR-56 vents are very small, and even with cutting-edge sensors, upgrades to the system for higher-range infrared detection and tracking capabilities will result in a different set of capabilities than those provided by sophisticated IRST. Consequently, the system is inherent to each Raptor and will offer 360 degrees of coverage, which is impossible with conventional IRST. A full-fledged IRST would be complemented by an upgraded MLD to the F-22. The value of an IRST sensor designed specifically for the F-22 is becoming increasingly apparent.

The Lockheed Martin AN / AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod is not standard equipment on the F-22, unlike many other tactical jets (ATP). This module is typically employed for air-to-ground reconnaissance and pinpoint strikes, but it also has the capability of long-range visual air-to-air detection. The capacity to reliably monitor the whereabouts of allies and foes over great distances at any time of day or night is a very useful capability. The module can act as a "poor IRST" that can detect airplanes from numerous entities because it has a function similar to a pseudo-IRST.

However, it is no match for a low-wave IRST designed specifically for air-to-air warfare, complete with the necessary processing power and software. benefits, including its potential for seamless integration with aircraft weaponry. The current IRST sensor, like the IRST21-based sensor aboard Legion Pod, will enable the Raptor pilot to swiftly detect multiple targets and then track them as they move out of sight. 
The sensor is especially helpful for a stealth aircraft since it provides more information about the target and allows the opponent to take part passively without being revealed to the fighter's radar.

For even greater precision and situational awareness, data from the target IRST can be integrated with data from the F-22 and other very advanced sensors, such as a novel passive electronic support package and other platforms. arena for combat in the attic. Much like the Air Force and the rest of the United States Military, it is shifting its attention to the most prominent threats posed by China and Russia, and it is doing so by equipping its most capable fighters with infrared signature technology (IRST).

Electronic warfare has the potential to degrade radar and even some data link devices, therefore having this capability is valuable in and of itself, especially against a more advanced foe. However, the F-22's protection against threat sensors that are likely to attempt to detect transmissions varies from target to target when the target lacks radar. As a result, the AN/APG-77 AESA radar is able to be recognized and, in particular, geolocated, which is extremely challenging for adversary sensors.

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