A prototype of the very latest type of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar will be flying on a Eurofighter Typhoon in 2013, so that customers can take delivery in 2015. The Captor-E will feature an innovative “re-positioner” with two rotating joints so that the array can cover a wide field of regard (WFoR). The Eurofighter and Euroradar industrial consortiums are “pre-funding” the development, but hope to secure financial support from the four partner nations beginning next March.
Eurofighter has been at a disadvantage in recent export campaigns because the partner nations were in no hurry to embrace AESA technology. In particular, the Indian air force has specified that the contenders for its 12-aircraft requirement be so equipped.
Euroradar modified a standard Captor-M radar with a fixed-plate AESA, which flew on a Eurofighter development aircraft in 2007 as a risk-reduction effort. Now, the WFoR development could allow the European jet to leapfrog the competition, provided that the partner nations do eventually step up to the funding plate.
“A fixed AESA cannot perform well beyond about a 50-degree angle because it cannot phase shift, and thereby loses a lot of power,” explained a Eurofighter official. The re-positioner provides a plus/minus 100-degree view, and it articulates in two dimensions to maintain radar polarization. This device is a further improvement on the swashplate-type AESA design that Selex-Galileo (the Anglo-Italian company that leads the Euroradar consortium) produced for the Gripen NG, as the Raven 1000P radar.
In addition to its own investment in the Raven series, the British part of Selex-Galileo is using a $30 million technology development grant from the British government to further its expertise in AESA radars.
“The UK is looking at some special requirements,” explained Bob Mason, vice president marketing and sales for Selex-Galileo. But, he added, these were additional software modes, and there would only be one Captor-E hardware configuration. It will use the existing, well-proven processor and receiver of the Captor-M, with the new AESA front end. Gallium Arsenide will be used for the transmit-receive modules, because it is much cheaper than the latest Gallium Nitride technology, Mason said.
Twelve countries are interested in acquiring Eurofighters, according the latest list produced by the consortium: Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, India, Japan, Malaysia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, South Korea, Switzerland and Turkey. Missing from the list is Oman, previously thought to be a hot prospect because of the long-standing ties between its air force and the UK Royal Air Force. It is now evaluating alternatives.