The announcement that the four Eurofighter Typhoon government partners have at long last placed contracts for the full integration of the Captor E-Scan (AESA) radar onto Eurofighter Typhoon is confirmation that all those engaged on this fantastic military aircraft programme over the past few years have been waiting for. The new radar is absolute cutting edge technology and can be expected to give Typhoon a significant lead over its rivals in terms of capability. In terms of additional air power capability this will give the various air forces that use Typhoon that include the Royal Air Force superb additional capability that they have long sought.
Not only does the long awaited decision to add the superb Captor E-Scan radar open new roads for Eurofighter Typhoon in terms of capability for the various military operators but it will also in my view be significant in terms of assisting the potential for exports. The addition of AESA radar provides a capability for Eurofighter Typhoon that, together with the many other well-known qualities that the aircraft provides, means that from both an existing user and potential export customer Typhoon should be considered very firmly back on the map.
Contracts for the Captor E-scan radar or, to give it the full name, Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar capability, that were awarded earlier today to Eurofighter by NETMA (the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (the intermediary organisation responsible for the Eurofighter Typhoon programme that sits in-between the four industrial partners and the UK, German, Spanish and Italian governments) have been very long in the making but are nevertheless extremely welcome.
The radar will further improve the Eurofighter Typhoon’s combat effectiveness and, alongside recent announcements for weapon capability upgrades, the award demonstrates the partner governments’ commitment to maintain the aircraft’s status as that of a world class multi role combat aircraft. From a technical and military standpoint the introduction of an AESA radar is designed to give the Eurofighter Typhoon far greater vision than its competitors through simultaneous multirole air-to-air and air-to-ground tracking of targets that will significantly increase fidelity and range.
I do not believe in re-inventing the wheel and the comments made by UK Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne in respect of the AESA radar contract sum the situation up very well:
“This contract marks a major milestone in the development of the Typhoon programme and offers a significant increase in the capability of the aircraft. The development of this AESA radar is a significant step in delivering technology that will ensure the Royal Air Force is equipped to meet the evolving demands of operations. Following recent announcements on weapon capability enhancements, notably the integration of Storm Shadow, this contract is a further demonstration of our continued commitment to the Typhoon aircraft”.
The overall value of the ASAR radar capability contract is put at EUR 1 billion (£800 million) and the contract will sustain around 500 jobs at Selex ES in Edinburgh”. The news is also very significant for BAE Systems who will act as the systems integrator on the programme. The value of the Captor E-Scan radar contract to BAE Systems is put at £365m. On this it is also worth noting that not only will the new radar give Eurofighter Typhoon one of the most advanced radar systems in the world that provides users with wider field of regard than any other combat aircraft but also provides additional benefits such as increased detection and tracking ranges, advanced air-to-surface capability and enhanced electronic protection measures.
An upgraded BAE Systems Eurofighter Typhoon development aircraft has already undergone a series of modifications as part of ongoing Captor E-Scan development. This aircraft flew for the first time with Captor E-Scan fitted in July this year and will continue both ground testing and flight trials.
Adding Captor E-Scan radar to Typhoon removes a hugely important barrier that has stood in the way of export enhancement. Typhoon is a brilliant aircraft but this just makes it even better. As the systems integrator BAE Systems will now work with all of its Eurofighter partners to achieve the in-service military requirements of each individual government partner. The programme will include retro-fitting Captor E-Scan to existing Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 aircraft when required.
I echo the words of Martin Taylor, Managing Director, Combat Air at BAE Systems when he said earlier today that “this is a major step forward in the development of Typhoon. From the outset, the aircraft was built with capability enhancement in mind and this step is proof that we [the partners] are developing Typhoon to keep it relevant for today and for the future. Typhoon has become the backbone of a number of air forces and with the potential for further development it will be meeting the needs of modern warfare for decades to come.”
Little else to add save to say that this is great news for Eurofighter Typhoon programme, the military of all four partner governments, for the European defence industrial base and the jobs of all those engaged in the Eurofighter Typhoon programme. For BAE Systems and for Selex in particular the decision marks a very positive result of much hard work, investment and considerable effort.
(Commentary will return on the 24th November)
CHW (London – 19th November 2014)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Tel: 07710 779785