UK funds next-gen AESA radar for RAF Typhoons

On September 3, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced it had awarded BAE Systems and Leonardo a £317m contract to develop a next-generation radar for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon fleet.

As part of the contract, the two companies will jointly develop the European Common Radar System Mark 2 (ECRS2) to a standard that can be integrated onto the RAF’s Typhoon multi-role fighters. The ECRS2 is based on active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar technology, which will replace the currently-fitted mechanically-scanning system. The ECRS2 will allow the Typhoon to simultaneously detect, identify and track multiple targets in the air and on the ground in challenging environments.

Typhoon ECRS2 [BAE Systems]
The European Common Radar System Mk 2 (ECRS2) will provide both traditional radar functions and new electronic warfare capabilities for the RAF's Typhoon fleet. BAE Systems

The new system is a multi-functional array, which will provide both traditional radar functions and new electronic warfare (EW) and wide-band electronic attack (EA) capabilities for the RAF’s Typhoon fleet. This will allow pilots to locate, identify and suppress enemy air defences through high-powered jamming, adding a suppression/destruction of enemy air defences (SEAD/DEAD) role to the multi-role fighter’s mission set.

According to BAE Systems, the ECRS2 “has significantly more transmit-receive elements than other radars, making [it] 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 [EW] functionality.”

The ECRS2 will also enhance the Typhoon’s survivability in the battlespace. BAE Systems adds that pilots “can 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.”

Typhoon FGR4s [BAE Systems]
A pair of RAF Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s in flight. BAE Systems

Andrea Thompson, managing director of the Europe & International division of 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,” she added.

The UK’s commitment to developing a next-generation AESA radar for its Typhoon fleet follows similar moves by Germany and Spain, as both nations recently awarded contracts to fulfil their requirements. Both BAE Systems and Leonardo have been working alongside the other Eurofighter consortium partner nations – Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – to deliver a baseline AESA for the multi-role fighter. Development of the ECRS2 follows a new approach, which is dedicated to meeting the operational needs of the RAF and future export customers.

The contract will sustain more than 600 jobs across BAE Systems and Leonardo and also seeks to further the technology development of the UK’s Future Combat Air System.