Industry Pushes E-Scan Radar for Eurofighter

 - October 15, 2008, 12:48 PM

Eurofighter has offered India codevelopment of an active antenna for the Typhoon’s Captor radar, as part of its bid to secure that country’s 126-unit order for a new combat aircraft. Eurofighter CEO Aloysius Rauen said that there had been “positive discussions” with India about a plan that would share the costs of converting the mechanically scanned Captor with the four original Eurofighter partner nations.
Neither Germany, Italy, Spain nor the UK has stated a firm requirement for an ‘E-scan’ version of the Captor. But potential export customers are beginning to specify active antennas because of their operational and reliability advantages. These were outlined in a media briefing last month by Dr. Elmar Compans, senior vice president of sensors for EADS Defense Electronics, part of the Euroradar consortium that supplies Eurofighter.

He said that a prototype E-scan Captor, funded by the four partners in Euroradar (EADS, Galilleo, Indra and Selex), had operated for 300 hours without a single failure. The trials took place in 2006 and 2007, including about 150 flight hours on a BAC 111 testbed and a development Typhoon.

Compans also described progress in development of new gallium gitride (GaN) semiconductors at his company’s joint venture with Thales, United Monolithic Semiconductors (UMS). When incorporated into the transmit/receive modules of an active array, these offer greater bandwidth and power than the current semiconductors that use gallium arsenide (GaAs) components.

Further, Compans said that an E-scan antenna could be substituted on the Captor with relative ease. However, a senior airborne radar specialist from Thales told AIN last year that it was not that simple. “The radar management function for a mechanically scanned array is very different,” he noted.

The Thales RBE2 radar on the Rafale fighter already features a non-mechanical (passive-scanning) array, which is now being upgraded to an active antenna for entry into French service in 2012. Thales is also working with Saab Microwave Systems to develop an active array for the Gripen radar.

Compans told AIN that it would make best sense for the four Eurofighter nations to sanction development of the E-scan Captor when they approve the Tranche 3 production contract. That move is due soon, but has proved controversial, as reported during the last Farnborough Air Show.