First MESA Radar Antenna for Wedgetail

11 November 2002

Northrop Grumman Corporation rolled out the first Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar antenna for Australia's Wedgetail airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system this week and installed it on a test range for integration and pattern testing.

Designed under contract to The Boeing Company for the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the MESA will be integrated into a modified Boeing 737-700 aircraft, the first of which rolled off the factory line Oct. 31 at the company's Renton, Wash., facility. The ADF has purchased a total of four aircraft.

The MESA antenna is an innovative aperture that provides a 360-degree azimuth scan with no mechanical rotation. Attached to the top aft section of the fuselage, it consists of an advanced composite structure that supports side-emitting electronic manifold arrays and a ""top hat"" end-fire array. Its ultralight foam composite sandwich construction enables state-of-the-art performance at a fraction of current system weights, thereby allowing additional time on station for the aircraft.

MESA will provide multiple surveillance applications, using pulse doppler radar forms for air search and pulse forms for maritime surface search. It also will provide in the same aperture an integrated civil and military identification friend-or-foe (IFF) capability.

""This rollout signifies a tremendous effort put forth by a lot of very talented people,"" said William R. Adams, vice president of Airborne Surveillance Systems at Northrop Grumman. ""Both our Boeing customer and our ADF end-user have recognized the on-time and on-cost performance of the MESA team, and they are very pleased.""

Squadron Leader Wayne McLaggan, who heads the resident project team at Northrop Grumman, added, ""This moment represents the culmination of several years of planning for the ADF. It is my particular pleasure to be on site as the years of close work with Northrop Grumman yield the first fruits.""

The MESA antenna will undergo testing through the first quarter of next year, when it will be completed for delivery to the Boeing military flight center in Seattle in May. The first flight of a MESA-equipped 737-700 is scheduled for early 2004, with major integration flight-testing to follow.

Northrop Grumman will also supply prime contractor Boeing with the electronics for the MESA radar and IFF, the power supply systems, and the radar software, parts of which are supplied by its Australian industry partners, Tenix and BAE Systems, both in Adelaide; and Cablex and Thycon, both in Melbourne.

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