It’s been a long time coming but a five-year £870 million contract has finally been awarded to BAE Systems and its partner Leonardo UK in order to upgrade radar capabilities on the RAF (Eurofighter) Typhoon capability.
The formal contract announcement announced yesterday for upgrading Typhoon the European Common Radar System (ECRS) Mk2 system is extremely welcome. It follows the announcement made at the 2022 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) of UK Government commitment to invest around £2.35 billion various planned Typhoon related upgrades such as enhanced mission systems, advanced sensors, weapons and displays and this, which will complete development and integration of the complex but highly important ECRS Mk 2, is the first of those.
ECRS (European Common Radar System) will transform Typhoon potential with world-leading electronic warfare capability that will allow the aircraft to simultaneously detect, identify, and track multiple targets in the air and on the ground. ECRS Mk2 will initially be integrated onto RAF Typhoon Tranche 3 aircraft and offered to other nations that operate the aircraft, boosting UK defence exports, but the hope is that it will also eventually be fitted to Tranche 2 aircraft.
News of the award comes just weeks after Leonardo delivered the first ECRS Mk 2 radar system to BAE Systems for integration on the first test aircraft which is expected to be complete next year. Developed in Edinburgh and Luton which is the centre for excellence of Leonardo advanced electronic warfare research development and production, ECRS Mk 2 features and innovative multi-functional array that can perform both traditional radar functions such as search and targeting together with other electronic warfare tasks. Translated, the effect means that Eurofighter Typhoon will be able to locate and deny use of an adversary’s radar with powerful electronic jamming attack whilst staying beyond the reach of threats.
Supporting as it does, stated UK Government’s priorities of growing the economy, the full planned £2.35 billion upgrade programme will sustain around 1,300 UK engineering job over the next 10 years. The £870 million contract announced yesterday will employ in excess of 600 highly skilled jobs in the UK including 300 at Leonardo’s site in Edinburgh, 100 at its Luton electronic warfare specialist site and 120 engineers at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, Lancashire.
Importantly, finalising the ordering of ECRS Mk 2 for Eurofighter Typhoon will enhance the potential for further exports of this very highly rated European designed capability.
Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin Gives Evidence to HCDC
Giving evidence to the House of Common Defence Select Committee ‘Work of the Chief of Defence Staff Inquiry’ the current Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin was at pains to suggest that despite reports to the contrary, he had not fallen out with the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Patrick Sanders who heads the British Army over perceived planned cuts to Army personnel numbers and he told HCDC members that the decision to restrict the latter to a two-year contract was made by the defence secretary without consulting him. In fact, this is considered to be normal practice albeit that Service Chief incumbents are often extended in post.
Attempting to defuse what some have called a row between the two men and others, a situation based on pure speculation following press reports suggesting that a process had already begun to replace Chief of the General Staff, Gen Sir Patrick Sanders and who it appears, will now stand down at the end of his two year term in February. Disagreements between Service Chiefs and the Chief of the Defence Staff are not unusual and one could go so far as to suggest that they are often healthy.
Admiral Radakin told the Committee that “The tenure of chiefs is very much something for the Secretary of State for Defence and that when he appointed General Sir Patrick Sanders it was for period of two years, adding that he had not been consulted about the decision made by Ben Wallace last year. He said that it was Ben Wallace who had taken the decision [of appointing General Sanders as CGS) before his own appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff had been confirmed in February 2022. With confirmation of his appointment announced on the 7th October 2021, Admiral Radakin succeeded General Sir Nick Carter as Chief of the Defence Staff on the 30th November 2021.
Interestingly, Admiral Radakin told the Committee that Mr. Wallace would sometimes attend the committee responsible for making senior military appointments as a non-voting observer. Labour’s Kevan Jones suggested to Admiral Radakin that the “amounted to a “huge constitutional change” and that “If a Labour government had done this, in terms of ministers actually part of the selection process, he could imagine the headlines in the Daily Mail.”
Although most usually appointed for a two-year term, it is not unusual for those appointed as Service Chiefs to be extended for a third year. The now immediate former Chief of the Air Staff is a perfect example of this.
But perhaps whatever the truth of the matter, consensus opinion appears to be that General Sanders has been fighting hard for his people including attempting to see any further cuts to Army personnel numbers and he has repeatedly warned about cuts to the army budget at a time when geo-political tensions and the level of threats have risen exponentially and in particular, how Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has changed thinking.
For all that, it is unusual for a Service Chief to be quite so open and honest and what might also argue, extremely unusual to see a Service Chief appearing to stand his ground and not be silenced. That is something that no Chief of the Defence Staff will tolerate for long and even less so, a Secretary of State for Defence.
Admiral Radakin also said that “Patrick and I haven’t fallen out either” adding that “We were surprised by the press reports and had privately communicated with each other on Friday”. I recall similar accusations made against the predecessors of both men – General Sir Nick Carter and General Sir Mark Carleton Smith – back in 2019/20 but would add that on several occasions that I saw them together at private functions there was absolutely no signs of disagreements being apparent.
Last week General Sanders warned that Britain should “never again be unprepared as our forebears were in the 1930s and that we could not rely on our geography in order to minimise investment on land”.
There is of course rarely smoke without fire and I guess that there are elements of both truth and exaggeration from all the various parties involved. That General Sanders has to an extent broken with the modern tradition of staying silent and acquiescing to political decisions in relation to defence should be welcomed but whoever does it should always be aware of the potential consequences!
CHW (London – 5th July 2023)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785