New-customer Typhoons Will Be the Most Advanced Yet

 - December 27, 2018, 11:09 AM
Seen while undergoing tests in an anechoic chamber, the Captor-E E-scan radar is installed in Typhoon IPA5 (photo: Hensoldt)

For most of the life of the Eurofighter Typhoon program, the integration of new capabilities on the aircraft has been driven by the requirements of the original four partner nations, and export aircraft have been based on the four-nation standard. However, for the first time, the aircraft that are being built for delivery to Kuwait and Qatar from late 2019/early 2020 will have sensors and weapons that are not in service with the partner nation air forces. In some cases, these new systems will provide capabilities that are more advanced than those of RAF, Luftwaffe, AMI, and Ej√©rcito del Aire Typhoons.

Eurofighter is due to begin deliveries of 28 aircraft to Kuwait during 2019, including six two-seat trainers, following the signing of an $8.7 billion contract with Italian defense company Finmeccanica (now Leonardo) in April 2016. Qatar then signed an order for 24 aircraft in December 2017, with deliveries due to start in 2022. The aircraft for Kuwait and Qatar will be to the latest standard and, like other Typhoons, will be capable of carrying Meteor BVRAAMs, as well as Storm Shadow, Paveway IV, Brimstone and other air-to-surface weapons.

While the four “core nations” have conspicuously failed to sign up to acquire an AESA radar for their Typhoon fleets, those for Kuwait and Qatar will incorporate this vital technology. Euroradar has secured production build contracts for 28 E-scan radars from Eurofighter/Leonardo Aircraft as the prime contractor for Kuwait and from BAE Systems for the 24 radars for Qatar.

The radar used by Kuwaiti and Qatari Typhoons is known as Radar One Plus and also forms the basis of the four-nation development program, with the same hardware and the same performance, although additional documentation and performance data will be required to satisfy the four-nation requirements as set down by NETMA, which manages the program on behalf of the European customers.

The Captor-E radar passed its Critical Design Review (CDR) exactly on schedule and its design has been frozen, with software that has been developed and matured through flight-testing using production standard hardware on Instrumented Production Aircraft (IPA) 5 at BAE Systems Warton, and on IPA8 at Airbus Defence and Space in Manching.

Hensoldt has now delivered two antennas to Leonardo UK in Edinburgh ready to begin series production with the delivery of the first radar systems due in mid-2019. Leonardo sources are confident that radar deliveries to the prime contractors will allow them to be fully integrated with the Eurofighter weapons system in time for aircraft for both customers to have E-Scan radar fitted from day one. The Euroradar companies (Leonardo, Hensoldt and Indra) hope that the Eurofighter partner nations will soon make commitments to procure Radar One Plus for their own Eurofighter fleets, allowing for production of those radars to neatly dovetail with deliveries for Kuwait and Qatar.

Kuwait’s Typhoons will be the first to use the Lockheed Martin Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP), which has recently been upgraded to include two-color laser spot tracking, short-wave infrared, and advanced non-traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (NTISR) modes. Lockheed Martin signed a contract with Leonardo Aircraft for the supply of 18 pods, together with integration and logistics support for the Kuwait Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoon.

Integration of the Marte ER anti-ship missile has also been started, based on what Eurofighter refers to as “formal interest from one of Eurofighter’s export customers”—understood to be Kuwait.

Integration of the Marte ER was originally examined following interest from a Eurofighter export customer in 2011, along with the Saab RBS15 and the Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon. This early work was followed in 2014 by some preliminary work by MBDA and Leonardo. A contract for the System Definition Phase was then signed in May 2016, and this defined the engineering and interface activities that would be required to get to a final clearance. Kuwait’s Typhoons are also due to be equipped to carry DRS-Cubic ACMI P5 combat training pods and will be fitted with an enhanced navigation aid with VOR.

Less detail has emerged about the planned “fit” of the Typhoons for Qatar, though they will use the same version of the Captor-E AESA radar. They are also expected to use the Sniper ATP, which has been specified for the new F-15QA Eagles and, since June 2018, for Qatar’s Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters.