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AESA radar for Eurofighter flight tested


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AESA radar for Eurofighter flight tested


An active electronically scanned array ( AESA) radar designed to equip the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft for the four launch nations has successfully completed initial flight tests, EADS Defence Electronics said at the ILA 2006 air show in Berlin.


Flight trials in a real Typhoon are now anticipated to take place possibly later this year, depending on Eurofighter test aircraft availability.


The tests, held earlier this year using a BAC 111 flying testbed aircraft at Bournemouth, southern England, involved the prototype of a future electronically scanning Captor-E derivative of the mechanically scanning Captor radar that is currently in production for the Typhoon Tranche 2 aircraft, said Dr Elmar Compans, head of the company's sensors department.


The prototype is known as CAESAR (Captor AESA Radar) and features an array with a classified number (between 1,000-2,000) of transmit/receive (T/R) modules. Its diameter is slightly larger than the mechanically scanned antenna that is now on Captor.


CAESAR has been in development since April 2002 by the four-nation Euroradar consortium, which is led by Selex of the UK and includes EADS Defence & Security of Germany, Galileo Avionica of Italy and Indra in Spain.


"The concept for CAESAR was to take the existing Captor radar, replace its mechanically scanned antenna with the AESA array and to leave the whole of the back-end 'as is', with the exception of the antenna control unit and the antenna power supply unit," Compans said.


"All Eurofighter avionics also remain unchanged. In terms of the new array there are no weight or centre of gravity issues that the aircraft cannot deal with.


"We believe that this evolutionary approach toward introducing an AESA radar on board Typhoon is the only way that it will be affordable for the customers."


However, the proposed Captor-E is expected to be more expensive than the standard Captor-M, he admitted.


The flight tests involved seven missions, during which a total of 50 test runs were made, Compans said.


"The AESA array operated successfully for over 20 hours within one single T/R module failure," he said.


For the campaign, two aircraft - an Alpha Jet A jet trainer and a Hawker Siddeley 748 twin-turboprop aircraft - were available to fly co-operative target profiles.


"These targets were detected and tracked, including during crossing and weaving manoeuvres, while it was also possible to distinguish between them when they were flying in close formation," Compans said.


"Various targets of opportunity were also detected and tracked."


According to Compans, the CAESAR and CECAR (a bilateral German-UK electronically scanned radar risk-reduction study) have opened the door to full-scale development of the Captor-E radar for Typhoon Tranche 3, deliveries of which are scheduled to start in 2012.


"That means the radar deliveries are to start in 2011, and that means that there's less than six years left for development, industrialisation and production. We propose to use the existing back-end of the Captor as is used in Tranche 2, as this is basically e-scan ready.


"The next step now is to perform CAESAR flight tests on board a real Typhoon aircraft, the main goal being to check out the radar's features in relation to the overall weapons system. There is no date fixed for this yet but I would be disappointed if it does not take place during 2006," Compans said.


Euroradar completed deliveries of Captor radars for Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 at the beginning of 2006. The Tranche 1 version of Captor cannot be readily converted to an AESA radar because it features older, less capable processing technology.


The Tranche 2 Captor radar that is now in production has the latest processing equipment and features a high-resolution ground-mapping mode that is not available in Tranche 1.


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