In its recent report dated March 19, the German Ministry of Defense, as part of its assessment of the Eurofighter Typhoon program, provided some updates on the status of the fighter jet’s Captor-E AESA radar and the development of the radar’s multichannel receiver.
The Captor-E provides the Eurofighter Typhoon with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) upgrade. An AESA radar provides an aircraft with a more efficient, more robust, longer-ranged and finer-detailed radar than older, mechanically scanned or passive systems. The addition of an AESA radar has become necessary because almost all modern fighter aircraft have already transitioned to this architecture.
In its report, the MoD stated that integration of the Captor-E on board the IPA8 testbed aircraft had been completed successfully; flight tests were to have begun before the end of March 2018. According to industry estimates, if the test schedule is followed, the development schedule can be completed as expected, but with one caveat. The development of the software that drives the radar is still considered at high risk of being incomplete as of its current due date.
Over the course of the Captor-E’s development, the MoD revealed that Germany’s share of the costs has increased more than EUR78 million ($96.1 million). This is partially attributed to improvements over the radar’s originally stated functionality. According to the report, delays in the ongoing development of the AESA radar and mitigation measures proposed by industry partners must be thoroughly analyzed and critically assessed.
The ultimate form of the radar’s implementation is still open to possibility, and not all of the radar’s development partners agree on what this should be. While Germany is pursuing development of a multichannel receiver, the U.K. is requesting that development be more focused on electronic combat – a divergence that could ultimately drive costs higher and delay development further.
Germany desires the multichannel receiver in order to enhance the Captor-E’s air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities while adding the ability to exploit the integration of more modern air-to-air weapons. As the country will be equipping all of its multirole Eurofighter Typhoons in Tranches 2 and 3a with the Captor-E, Germany believes that its standing in the four-nation program, and therefore its potential to further its own desires for the outcome of the program, is elevated.
As Captor-E flight testing progresses during the year, it will become clearer whether the radar will meet its implementation deadlines. With the Eurofighter Typhoon lacking a functional AESA radar, the fighter jet is at a significant disadvantage against other options available in international procurement contests. And the disadvantage is not only monetary; the Eurofighter partner nations are also at a disadvantage in terms of air superiority, as the Typhoon lags behind potential enemy combatants in its electronics technology.
An expedient yet expeditious solution is needed.
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