US Air Force Works To Replace Airborne High Frequency Radio in Aircraft

The Electronic Warfare and Avionics Program Office of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is working to develop and field a replacement airborne high frequency (HF) radio in aircraft to better meet warfighter needs.

The office’s Rapid Prototyping and Fielding Program will modernize about 2,500 radios in various Air Force aircraft, along with aircraft belonging to the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard.

After prototyping, BAE Systems Inc. was selected as the vendor to complete the rapid fielding phase to produce and install 2,000 radios on aircraft within the next five years.  

“It all starts with the legacy airborne high frequency radio, the AN/ARC-190, which currently is onboard these operational aircraft,” Capt. Jeremy Fazely, Airborne High Frequency Radio Modernization Program manager, stated. “The AN/ARC-190 is still functional, but isn’t capable of meeting today’s warfighter’s needs and is no longer in production. If the AHFRM program didn’t exist, the field would start to see degraded operational impacts as early as 2024.”

Fazely explained that they will reuse some elements of the aircraft’s HF radio system and completely redesign and modernize other elements of the legacy system. For example, the receiver transmitter will be rebuilt so that it’s a box that will fit in the same profile as the legacy radio, thus able to use existing aircraft connections and wiring.

AHFRM will be installing new radios on the lead platform, the KC-135, and begin developmental testing this year. 

“The new radio will perform all the same functions of the legacy radio and also be forward and backward-compatible to ensure that as we field these new radios that operations are not interrupted,” Fazely said. “We’re really excited about the new enhanced and assured capabilities this radio will provide the warfighters. The Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy will all gain new secure, long-haul radio capabilities in order to enhance their operational effectiveness.”