LONDON — Britain’s Ministry of Defence has funded the final step in the development of an active electronically scanned array radar destined for the Royal Air Force’s Typhoon combat jets.

The agency announced July 4 it had awarded BAE Systems and Leonardo UK an £870 million ($1.1 billion) deal spanning five years to complete development and integration of the European Common Radar System Mk2 radar destined to equip British Typhoon batch 3 fighters.

The deal covers design, development, demonstration and qualification and takes the radar to a production initial operating capability ready for integration into aircraft.

The ECRS contract is the first part of a £2.35 billion investment plan unveiled by the British in mid-2022 to upgrade mission computers, jamming and other technologies on the RAF jets.

Defense officials here have remained vague about exactly when the Mk2-fitted Typhoon will be available operationally.

The expectation is the upgraded aircraft will be in service by 2030, although program officials have indicated they would like to see the radar in action earlier if possible.

The new ECRS Mk2 kit will be installed on around 40 RAF Typhoon tranche 3 aircraft, although the radar could also be installed on batch 2 aircraft if funds were available.

The British MoD statement also said the radar could be offered to other nations that operate the aircraft. No potential customers were mentioned in the MoD statement.

Typhoon customers Kuwait and Qatar already operate a Leonardo-supplied scanned array system on their planes, leaving fellow user Saudi Arabia as the most likely option.

The Saudis are the Typhoons’ largest export customer, and the Middle East country has been touted recently as having a possible interest in a further buy of the aircraft, which would likely involve a new radar.

German media reports last week suggested that a long-delayed purchase of Typhoon jets from BAE could be revived if the government in Berlin overcame opposition among some of its coalition members and approved the deal.

Typhoon production and development is a four-nation effort involving Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The new radar is considered the biggest single element of upgrades aimed at keeping Typhoon current until at least 2040. As such, the technology is a stepping stone towards new capabilities for the envisioned sixth-generation Global Combat Air Program being negotiated by Britain, Italy and Japan.

“ECRS Mk2 will not only provide critical capability to Typhoon but will also develop and sustain critical skills relevant to the Global Combat Air Programme.” Mark Hamilton, Leonardo’s managing director electronics UK, said.

A prototype of the Leonardo Mk2 radar was delivered to BAE’s Warton combat air site in northern England earlier this year ahead of integration on a British Typhoon.

Germany and Spain, meanwhile, have opted for a less ambitious radar dubbed Mk1.

Italy remains interested in the Mk2 for its Typhoon force but has yet to commit to the program even though Leonardo has Italian engineers working on the program at its main radar development sites in Scotland.

The radar is currently undergoing specialist testing at Warton. A statement released by the MoD and BAE said initial flight testing is scheduled to start next year.

At a briefing with reporters at Warton last year, officials said the first flight was expected in 2023.

It appears now, though, that program officials have now reorganized some of the test program, increasing the amount of up-front ground testing. The shuffle has not affected the program’s overall timing, said officials.

Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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