A rare stop-press moment from me but with news announced today that Royal Air Force Typhoon swing-role combat aircraft capability is finally to be fitted with enhanced AESA radar capability.
The contract awarded by MOD to BAE Systems and Leonardo today is one of the most welcome and important development/procurement decisions that we are likely to see before publication of the Integrated Review later this year or early next.
The AESA Radar decision is one that has been far too long in the making in my view but one that, after years of seeming procrastination and delay, is extremely pleasing.
The £317m contract award by the MOD to BAE Systems and Leonardo will enable development of enhanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) capability based on the European Common Radar System Mark 2(ECRS Mk2) radar, to a standard in which this vital equipment will be ready to be fully integrated on to Royal Air Force Typhoon military jet capability.
Back in 2014, BAE Systems had been awarded a three-year contract, named the E-Scan Extended Assessment Phase (EAP) – one that was designed to look specifically at the UK’s capability requirements for an E-Scan radar and to inform the UK MOD’s procurement process, ahead of the award of a full scale development contract.
The award to develop the next generation of radar for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoons will not only sustain more than 600 highly skilled jobs across the country, including more than 300 at Leonardo’s site in Edinburgh, over 100 electronic warfare specialists at the company’s site in Luton, and 120 engineers at BAE Systems’ site in Lancashire, but also in my view enhance Typhoon exportability as well as developing technologies for the UK’s Future Combat Air Systems.
ECRS2 is a multi-functional array (MFA) that will provide RAF Typhoon aircraft with a world-leading Electronic Warfare capability, in addition to traditional radar functions, including wide band Electronic Attack. RAF Typhoon pilot ability to locate, identify and suppress enemy air defences using high-powered jamming will be significantly enhanced enabling them to engage targets whilst beyond the reach of threats – even when they’re looking in another direction – and operate inside the range of opposing air defences, remaining fully protected throughout.
As the joint company statement rightly suggests, the contract to develop Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), the European Common Radar System Mark 2(ECRS Mk2) radar, to a standard ready to be integrated on to Royal Air Force Typhoon military jets really is game-changing in respect of capability enhancement and performance. When development is complete, this will replace mechanically-scanning radar currently fitted to RAF Typhoons.
Importantly, with what is regarded as being the most enhanced AESA radar capability available in the world, the contract award to BAE Systems and Leonardo today will ensure that the UK retains the freedom to deliver air power wherever and whenever it is needed. In addition, the new enhanced capability will enable aircraft to link up with future data-driven weapons to combat rapidly evolving air defences, ensuring that Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft will be able to continue dominating the battlespace for years to come.
Andrea Thompson, Managing Director Europe & International for BAE Systems’ Air sector, said: “This capability will allow Typhoon to take its place in the future battlespace for decades to come, maturing key technologies for future combat air systems and ensuring interoperability. As well as securing highly skilled jobs, it will sustain the key skills needed to keep the UK at the forefront of the global Combat Air sector. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the Eurofighter nations and our industry partners to ensure Typhoon delivers the needs of today and answers the challenges of tomorrow.”
Mark Hamilton, Senior Vice-President Electronic Warfare, Leonardo, said: “This contract is great news for the UK, which will get the world’s most capable fighter radar, and great news for British engineering. Inventing, developing and building advanced technology here in the UK allows us to understand and meet the specific requirements of our Armed Forces and to secure export orders all around the world, boosting the whole UK economy.”
The new radar will be based on AESA technology and will provide game-changing capabilities based on a revolutionary MFA. It has significantly more Transmit-Receive Elements than other radars, making Mk2 the most capable fighter AESA radar in the world, maintaining the same power and precision of traditional radars but also enabling the simultaneous operation of its wide-band Electronic Warfare functionality.
BAE Systems, the UK’s prime contractor for the Typhoon, will integrate the new sensor which will be developed by Leonardo, the UK’s defence electronics champion. Both companies are currently working as part of a four-nation development programme alongside Eurofighter consortium partners in Germany, Spain and Italy on a baseline version of the AESA radar. The ECRS Mk2 is a completely new approach designed to meet the operational needs of the RAF and future export customers.
The UK’s commitment follows a similar commitment from Germany and Spain to deliver their own national requirements for an AESA radar.
CHW (London – 3rd September 2020)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785