Germany approves Eurofighter AESA radar upgrade

The German Bundestag has approved the development, production and integration of new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar systems for the Luftwaffe’s (German Air Force’s) entire Eurofighter EF-2000 fleet.

Announced on June 17, approval of the Eurofighter fleet’s radar modernisation comes as part of a €13bn (US$14.68bn) investment into the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces). Of which, a total of €2.8bn (US$3.16bn) has been allocated for the integration of modern AESA radars onto the Luftwaffe’s EF-2000 multi-role fighters. The approved funding includes €1.5bn (US$1.68bn) for German-based sensor solution company, Hensoldt, which is leading the development, production and integration effort. 

German EF-2000 [Munnaf Joarder] #1
A Luftwaffe EF-2000 - serial 30+52 (c/n GS037) lands for fuel at Selfridge Air National Guard Base (ANGB), Michigan, on March 20. The aircraft was transit flight back to Germany after Exercise Red Flag at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Munnaf Joarder via DVIDS

The German Ministry of Defence (MoD) states that the money will be spent in two ways. The first includes the “procurement of the most modern AESA” radar systems, with the second being the acquisition of “multi-channel receivers to exploit the performance potential of this future-oriented technology [that will] be developed and integrated into the Eurofighter.”

Germany expects that the new radar will be available with its full capabilities from the mid-2020s. The system will feature improved detection and identification options, along with being more immune to outside interference. The German MoD adds that “the Eurofighter will be better able to detect and engage air-to-air and air-to-ground targets”, tracking and tackling several independent targets simultaneously.  

Thomas Müller, CEO of Hensoldt, said: “With this decision, Germany is taking on a pioneering role in the field of key technology for the Eurofighter for the first time... This will create high-tech jobs in Germany and give the Bundeswehr the equipment it needs to respond to new threats. In addition, it is a signal for Europe that Germany is investing in a technology that is of crucial importance for European defence cooperation."

Eurofighter Radar Upgrade Germany [Hensoldt]
A digital concept of the future AESA radar system that will be employed by Germany's Eurofighter fleet. Hensoldt 

In recent years, a development effort – led by Leonardo UK – has been ongoing to modernise the Eurofighter’s current Euroradar Captor mechanical multi-mode pulse doppler radar. This programme has produced the Captor AESA (CAESAR), otherwise known as the Captor electronically scanned (E-Scan) radar. This system is set to be employed by Eurofighters operated by Kuwait and Qatar.

The new AESA radars will be integrated onto the Luftwaffe’s Tranche 2 and Tranche 3A Eurofighter fleet. AirForces Intelligence data shows that the air arm operates a total of 110 single-seat EF-2000S fighters, which is complemented by 30 two-seat EF-2000Ts.

In April, the German government announced plans to acquire a further 93 aircraft, 55 of which will be procured as part of replacement efforts for the Luftwaffe’s ageing Panavia Tornado IDS/ECR fleet. Another 38 examples are being sought to replace the air arm’s older Tranche 1 Eurofighters.