UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS) hopes to close a possible future gap in the UK’s tactical reconnaissance capability, ahead of the planned retirement of the Royal Air Force’s last Panavia Tornado GR4s in 2019.
The Tornado can carry the UTAS-produced Raptor pod, which incorporates the company’s DB-110 sensor, but this is too large in its current guise for integration with the Eurofighter Typhoon. As a result, UTAS is pursuing the use of a smaller pod that could be used by the multirole type, says Stephen Trimble, the company’s director of processing, exploitation and dissemination technology systems.
“We have done the studies, and it will fit on Typhoon,” he says of the new pod design. However, the integration of the DB-110 onto the type is not among a range of currently funded capability enhancements, which will include Tornado-carried weapons such as MBDA’s Storm Shadow cruise missile.
Further details of the UK’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance priorities are expected to be outlined in a new Strategic Defence and Security Review, which will be released around October, but RAF commanders have said there will be no capability gaps left following the Tornado’s retirement.
Meanwhile, UTAS is further developing the DB-110 system’s capabilities, with Trimble saying that a multi-spectral sensor “should be ready in the next year”. The company is also working with Selex ES in the UK to integrate one of the latter’s synthetic aperture radars using the same pod design. This would provide operators with an all-weather reconnaissance capability.
Trimble says the product development work is being pursued “based on feedback from 15 years of operating the DB-110”. Around 70 pods are in current use, with orders having come from Greece, Iraq, Japan, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the UK.