As part of a contract that could be worth $500m in total, Boeing expects to receive the initial IRST development contract from the navy in mid-2008.
Bob Gower, vice-president of Boeing F/A-18 programs, noted that Boeing would be investing a great deal in testing the system before delivery.
‘Boeing and Lockheed Martin are partnering to invest more than $10m to conduct a risk reduction demonstration, with US Navy participation, prior to the start of the IRST development contract,’ he said.
Boeing says the IRST is a long-range sensor system that detects long-wave infrared emissions in its field of view, with the ability to track multiple targets simultaneously, even when up against radar-jamming equipment.
In early 2008, Boeing will conduct a prototype flight demonstration using a modified 1,817l centreline fuel tank to accommodate the IRST system. The use of the fuel tank allows for the system to be installed without the need for structural or wiring changes to the aircraft.
The IRST system is expected to be delivered in 2012, and start operating the following year.