RAF Typhoon will get new advanced ECRS MK2 AESA radar

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has given the green light to the next phase of the European Common Radar System (ECRS) Mk 2 radar for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Typhoon multi-role fighter.

BAE Systems and Leonardo will share funding worth GBP317 million (USD421 million) for the development and integration of the ECRS Mk 2. Alongside standard radar search/track modes, the ECRS Mk 2 will also confer electronic warfare (EW) and electronic attack (EA) capabilities.

Leonardo already produces AESA radars for the Saab Gripen fighter, and the company’s systems are also being fitted to Typhoons for export customers Kuwait and Qatar.

The British plan to equip their 40-strong fleet of Typhoon Tranche 3 jets with the new radar but will decide at a later date whether to take up the option of fitting out the earlier Tranche 2 aircraft with the technology.

The new active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar is initially planned for retrofit to 40 Tranche 3 Typhoons, with the option remaining for extension into Tranche 2 aircraft. The UK’s commitment to ECRS Mk 2 follows a similar commitment from Germany and Spain to deliver their own national requirements for an AESA radar.

Both BAE Systems and Leonardo are already working, as part of a four-nation development programme, alongside Eurofighter consortium partners in Germany, Spain and Italy on a baseline version of the Captor-E AESA radar. However, the two companies say that the ECRS Mk 2 “is a completely new approach designed to meet the operational needs of the RAF and future export customers”.

The key differentiators for the ECRS Mk 2 are a new high-power multi-function array, featuring significantly more transmit/receive elements than similar fighter radars, and a new open-architecture radar ‘back end’. The new array will enable the simultaneous operation of EW and wideband EA functionality alongside traditional air-to-air and air-to-surface radar modes.

The ECRS Mk 2 has been de-risked by the UK’s ‘Bright Adder’ high-power array technology demonstrator programme. Begun in 2010, and pulling through technology from the earlier Advanced Radar Targeting System programme, ‘Bright Adder’ has successfully demonstrated novel ‘jamming through the radar’ functionality.

A CGI image of the European Common Radar System Mark 2 (ECRS Mk2) active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar on a Typhoon. BAE Systems and Leonardo have been awarded a GBP317 million contract to develop the radar to a standard ready to be integrated on to RAF Typhoons, it was announced on 3 September. (Leonardo)

The announcement of the next step in Britain’s intentions to go their own way with the development of the Mk2 system comes just weeks after Typhoon national partners Germany and Spain revealed they were going ahead with the development and manufacture of the Hensoldt-led European Common Radar System Mk1 version.

Spain, Germany and Italy among the four Typhoon partner nations have decided on a replacement for the effective but aging mechanically scanned radar currently in operation with new ESCAN AESA radar.

Britain and Italy both operate the Lockheed Martin F-35 alongside their Typhoons.

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