A Eurofighter Typhoon is pictured during a July 14 flight demonstration at the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire, England. (Carl Court / AFP)
FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND — Eurofighter executives held out the prospects of Typhoon fighters being fitted with an operational active electronically scanned array radar (AESA) within three years at a briefing at the Farnborough International Airshow July 15.
“We don’t have a fixed, hard date for delivery, but we could have a first operational fielding for a frontline squadron in two to three years,” said Eurofighter capability manager Paul Smith.
The Eurofighter manager was among several executives briefing reporters in a secure structure at the Farnborough International Airshow housing the first Typhoon fitted with a development version of the SelexES-led Euroradar consortium’s AESA.
The debut of the Typhoon production-standard aircraft with the radar coincided with the announcement by Eurofighter partner nations Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain that they had finally committed to production of the radar.
British Prime Minister David Cameron committed the Royal Air Force to the AESA radar during his speech opening the show July 14.
The program still requires approval by the German Parliament before a contract can be signed, but it is expected that hurdle could be cleared by September, leading to signature in October, said one industry executive.
Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinottii, also weighed in with her commitment to the radar development telling reporters at the show“Italy is ready to do it’s part ... When you have an excellent product adding technological innovation to make it more competitive is an idea we share completely with our partners.”
Aside from equipping the Eurofighter nations with a capability that all of its major US and French fighter rivals have in production, the radar is a key component if Typhoon is to succeed in fast-jet competitions being held in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Swedish rival Saab is also set to become an AESA user, signing a production contract with radar supplier Selex ES for the sensor to be installed on it’s Gripen fighter.
Eurofighter has operated its radar on the ground but expects to start test flight once the aircraft returns to it’s Warton factory in northwest England after the show.
A second aircraft taken off the Tranche 3 production line in Germany is also being pitched for the flight-test program once installation of the radar is complete.
Andrew Cowdery, the chairman of Euroradar, said one of the key tasks now being worked on aside from development was a reduction in the cost of production to make it price competitive.
The Euroradar executive said the firm was still working on a separate UK AESA program aimed at maturing technology for RAF specific requirements.
The Eurofighter partners agreed to a common baseline specification, but nations can develop their own capability if they require it, said Smith.
Tranche 2 and Tranche 3 standard aircraft can be retrofitted with the radar, allowing Eurofighter users to upgrade their aircraft when required, the Typhoon maker said.
The radar, known as the Captor-E, features a very large antenna size and uses a beam repositioner to give a wider field-of-view compared with the fixed-plate radar technology employed by other Western AESA suppliers, Eurofighter claims. ■