ROME — The first Kuwaiti Eurofighters with new electronically scanned radars onboard took to the skies in Italy in October for test flights, as engineers in the U.K. provided fresh details on the e-scan radar version they are developing for the RAF’s Typhoons.
With progress being made on yet another version for Germany and Spain’s fighters, the Typhoon now has not one but three e-scan radars in the works after years of delays.
The Kuwaiti jets were spotted taking off from Leonardo’s Caselle facility in northern Italy on Oct. 15 for their first test flight ahead of year-end delivery, part of an order of 28 Typhoons by the Gulf state which will boast the so-called Eurofighter Common Radar System Mk 0.
Built by the Euroradar consortium teaming Leonardo Italy, Leonardo UK, Spain’s Indra and Germany’s Hensoldt, the Mk 0 will also equip Qatar’s 24 Typhoons.
Hensoldt and Indra are meanwhile working on an upgrade – the Mk 1 version, which will use transmit/receive modules built in Germany to retrofit roughly 130 German and Spanish aircraft in the mid-2020s.
Going it alone, the UK has developed an Mk 2 which features new components and has been offered to possible Typhoon customer Finland, while Italy, which has long held faith with the Typhoon’s current mechanically scanned Captor radar, decided to sign up to Mk 2 in September.
With financing due to be freed up by Rome on a step-by-step basis, 16 engineers from Leonardo Italy will work on secondment in the UK over the next 18 months to learn about the new radar.
They will cross a firewall to work with British colleagues at Leonardo UK, which has been managing the program for the British Ministry of Defence.
What is well known is that Mk 2 will differ from its fellow Typhoon e-scan radars by offering wideband electronic-attack and electronic-warfare features in addition to more traditional radar capability.
Further innovations will include the ability to passively register emissions from targets and threats providing data that can be fused with data received by the Typhoon’s Defensive Aid Sub-System (DASS) and Pirate infra-red sensor.
The radar will also be able to transmit data, something described as “essential” by Ross Wilson, Leonardo UK’s Typhoon Chief Engineer for Fire Control Radar.
Another big change are the Mk 2′s UK-built transmit/receive modules, which Leonardo refers to as circuits, since they are soldered to the face of the radar, as opposed to modules on the Mk 0 and Mk 1, which are screwed in.
“By soldering them to the board performance can be increased, while overall weight is cut and the density and reliability of the circuits is increased. We continue to invest in key componentry to drive down size and weight, allowing us to maximize the power and aperture available in a fast jet environment,” said Wilson.
Another change is the introduction of gallium nitride (GaN) semi-conductors, considered more powerful than previously used gallium arsenide (GaAs) semi-conductors.
“GaN has been seen as the future, set to take over from GaAs, but for Leonardo UK, both have a role in radar development to achieve the best performance balance for a fast jet application and can be used together,” said Wilson.
With Leonardo UK aiming to deliver the first Mk 2 radar next year to BAE, which is integrating the radar on the Typhoon and is expected to fly it for the first time in 2023, Wilson said it would be “the most capable radar ever produced when it enters service.”
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.