Leonardo’s Vixen 500E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar has been selected for a planned upgrade of the Romanian IAR-99 Șoim (hawk) advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft fleet.
The Vixen 500E will initially be installed on the IAR-99TD technology demonstrator, based on company-operated prototype serial 7003.
The prototype aircraft with the radar installed is expected to be ready for testing before the end of the year.
Ultimately, the Vixen 500E could be retrofitted in the FAR’s fleet of IAR-99s as part of a wider upgrade programme.
The radar has been procured by Romania’s National Institute for Aerospace Research ‘Elie Carafoli’ (INCAS). Modifications to the IAR-99TD will be carried out by INCAS together with the aircraft’s original manufacturer Avioane Craiova.
Norman Bone, Managing Director of Leonardo’s Airborne and Space Systems division, said: “This partnership with INCAS is representative of Leonardo’s open and collaborative approach to meeting the demands of the market. By working together, we are able to better understand, and provide the best solution for, the needs of the Romanian MoD. Looking to the future, following further work on the IAR-99 Technology Demonstrator, we see further commercial potential outside of Romania and are looking forward to working with INCAS to address this.”
Dr Catalin Nae, General Manager of INCAS, added: “It is a dedicated development programme towards a new generation trainer we develop at INCAS, as a follow-up on the current IAR-99 Șoim in service for the Romanian MoD. IAR-99TD is a technological demonstrator to fully test and further develop new technologies for advanced trainer, with enhanced sensing and combat capabilities. The Vixen 500E radar system will bring the capability that we consider critical with respect to the operational environment for our future trainer.”
Leonardo previously supplied INCAS with its Seaspray 5000E AESA surveillance radar for installation in a special mission BN-2 Islander. This is currently being used for scientific and environmental monitoring missions.
The contract with INCAS follows Leonardo’s recent provision of the same Vixen 500E radar to the US Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) in Patuxent River, Maryland, where students will use the radar while training on-board the school’s C-26 aircraft. Previously, Leonardo has also sold the Vixen 500E to the United States for the Department of Homeland Security.
According to data from AirForces Intelligence, the FAR currently operates 11 IAR-99 Șoim aircraft. These include five examples upgraded from existing IAR-99 Standard airframes. The most recent attrition loss occurred on August 23, 2012, resulting in a fatality and a serious injury. The operating unit is Escadrilei 951 Aviație at Baza 95 Aeriană at Bacău.
Seven examples of the earlier IAR-99 Standard also remain in service, these having entered service beginning in 1990.