The Eurofighter partner nations are moving towards an agreement to integrate an active electronically scanned array radar with the type, as discussions over Tranche 3A production near a conclusion.

"We are talking at great length, and there is a gradual coming together," says Bob Mason, vice-president marketing and sales for Selex Galileo, prime contractor and design authority for the Eurofighter Typhoon's current mechanically scanned Captor radar. "A lot of things are pulling E-scan to the fore, and we expect some sort of agreement within two to three months."

Selex, which produces over 50% of the Captor system at its facilities in Edinburgh, Scotland and Milan, Italy, believes the addition of an AESA array will be a vital step towards the Typhoon securing additional sales with nations such as India and Japan.

 Saudi Air force Eurofighter Typhoon
© BAE Systems
Eurofighter's biggest export success has been in selling 72 aircraft to Saudi Arabia

"The Typhoon needs an E-scan radar, or it will not export," says Mason. Rival types such as the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale are already being offered with AESA systems.

EADS conducted test flights with the Euroradar consortium's Caesar active array using a Eurofighter development aircraft in 2007, and Selex has also previously supplied AESA systems to the UK Ministry of Defence for evaluation in fast jet types such as the Panavia Tornado.

A prototype of the company's Vixen 1000E/Raven ES05 is also now in flight test with Saab's Gripen Demo airframe, with this viewed as a de-risking activity for a possible larger version for the Typhoon.

 Vixen 1000ES radar - Selex Galileo
© Selex Galileo
A prototype AESA array was recently installed on Saab's Gripen Demo aircraft

"E-scan was previously looked at as risky and potentially costly. Now the risk of doing nothing is worse," says Alastair Morrison, deputy senior vice-president radar and advanced targeting for Selex Galileo. "It's in everyone's interest to make this work."

Selex says an AESA array could now be produced for the same cost as a mechanically scanned system, but deliver a five- to 10-times increase in mean-time between critical failures, reducing maintenance and other through-life support costs.

The new technology also brings advances in detection range and performance, for example by operating "virtually instantaneously" in both air-to-air and air-to-ground modes. Selex has also developed a "swashplate repositioner", which enables the normally fixed AESA array to be moved laterally by +/-100°. "Germany now believes a repositioner of some sort is desirable," says Mason.

An AESA version of the Captor could also potentially be retrofitted to Tranche 2 aircraft for Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Separately, Mason says Selex is now investigating wider uses for AESA radar technology, including possible communications and electronic attack modes. "We are looking at all applications," he says.

Source: Flight International