A major part of Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems' (S&AS) work in the UK comes via its status as a key avionics supplier to the Eurofighter Typhoon for programme partners Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, plus export buyers Austria and Saudi Arabia.
Selex is making a concerted push, along with its Euroradar consortium partners EADS Defence Electronics, Galileo Avionica and Indra, to have an active electronically scanned array radar form part of the Tranche 3 Eurofighter deal. Dubbed Caesar, the AESA sensor was flown for the first time with a Eurofighter last May using EADS's development aircraft DA5, with its four test sorties completing a four-year development effort. The active front-end was integrated with the aircraft's existing Captor radar.
But with the Eurofighter project tipped to face a tough next 12 months as the core nations grapple with funding issues, other efficiencies will be needed if the ambitious package is to remain affordable. "Typhoon is particularly important to us for sensor provision," says S&AS chief executive Steve Mogford. "It's not just aircraft numbers, it's also the capability of those Tranche 3 aircraft."
Will Eurofighter hail Caesar?
Mogford believes the programme's largest customer, the UK, must move towards a capability-based support model for the Typhoon, building on its experience with the BAE Systems Harrier GR7/9 and Panavia Tornado, and embracing the recommendations of its December 2005 Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS).
"How can industry and government work together to provide not just the next series of production aircraft, but really use the intent in the DIS to provide capability," asks Mogford. "What are the different commercial models that we can use that would provide affordable capability?"
Selex has meanwhile welcomed Saudi Arabia's decision to buy 72 Typhoons, and will offer to help the nation's defence industry in supporting the type across its service life. "Saudi business is good news for the whole supply chain," says Mogford. S&AS is also offering an AESA sensor to equip Saab's Gripen demonstrator aircraft, flight tests of which could start during 2008.