Duluth, MN --
Subject matter experts from Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command, the Air National Guard, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Reserve Test Center (AATC) and 148th Fighter Wing gathered at the Duluth-based Air National Guard flying unit to exercise the end-to-end employment of the recently fielded AN/ASQ-236 Radar pod and create a plan how the Air National Guard will operationalize the AN/ASQ-236 radar pod for all ANG F-16 fighter aircraft, January 24-26, 2023. This exercise was a culmination of many months of software and hardware modifications to the aircraft, software and support equipment. The 148th Fighter Wing was first to accomplish all of the requirements for the F16 operational fleet.
The AN/ASQ-236 pod is an externally mounted Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) pod that provides detailed maps for surveillance, coordinate generation and bomb impact assessment purposes. The pod provides Combat Air Forces with the ability to geo-locate points of interest day or night, in adverse weather conditions and compliments the recent fielding of the APG-83 AESA Fire Control Radar (FCR) by the 148th Maintenance Group.
After Operation Desert Storm, the U.S. Air Force recognized the need for an all-weather precision geo-location and reconnaissance system with the reliability inherent in active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. The U.S. Air Force and Northrop Grumman designed, fabricated and tested the system now known as the AN/ASQ-236. The pod is already operational on the F-15E Strike Eagle.
The 148th Fighter Wing, which flies the Block 50 F-16CM, has been designated as the Air National Guard’s Center for Excellence for the AN/ASQ-236. “As the Center of Excellence, the 148th will retain expertise in the loading, distribution, training and employment of the AN/ASQ-236 and the capabilities it brings to the warfighter,” said 148th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Nathan Aysta.
The team of cross-organizational experts from both Operations and Maintenance had a clear set of objectives for the week-long team visit. Those goals included installing the ASQ-236 and validating flight operations on Post-Block F-16s using unique software programs.
“Pilots were trained by AATC subject matter experts on the pod’s software and aircraft systems integration, including troubleshooting and emergency procedures management,” said Maj. Michael “Ox” Kuzmuk, Chief of Wing Weapons for the 148th Fighter Wing. “Additionally, we trained to and refined best practices for mission planning and post flight analysis, which included post mission intelligence distribution,” added Kuzmuk.
Aircraft Armament Systems specialists, alongside AN/ASQ-236 program managers, installed the pylons for the pod while Fighter Aircraft Integrated Avionics specialists installed the AN/ASQ-236 with the intent to fly the pod.
The objectives were met, and the team saw Kuzmuk fly the first Post-Block F-16 with the AN/ASQ-236 on January 26, 2023. “This effort has been ongoing for many years,” said Annette Becker, F-16 Program Manager assigned to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah. “The continued partnerships, successful execution and effective cross-talk have established courses of action for the Air National Guard to operationalize the AN/ASQ-236,” added Becker.
The 148th Fighter Wing is a multi-purposed Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD/DEAD) and NORAD Aerospace Control Alert-trained (ACA) Air National Guard flying unit located in Duluth, Minnesota.