Counter-Drone Tech and State-of-the-Art Radar for the RAF
(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Sept. 03, 2020)
The UK has decided to invest £317 million to develop the Mk. 2 version of the European Common Radar System, but its production and retrofit to RAF Typhoons will require a much larger investment. (UK MoD image)
RAF Typhoons are to be equipped with next generation radar thanks to a £317 million investment, Defence Minister Jeremy Quin today announced.

The new contract will secure over 600 jobs and make sure the UK remains at the forefront of radar technology development.

The RAF is also one step closer in bringing its ORCUS technology into force, which can jam radio signals from drones and has already been successfully deployed during drone sightings at airports.

Confirming the news at the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) 2020 event, the Minister, said: “It is vital that our Armed Forces are equipped with the latest technology to counter emerging threats from our adversaries.

“Today we announce the investment in the latest in radar technology for our fighter jets and pioneering new defence systems to counter threats from drones. This demonstrates our commitment to maintaining security in the air whilst supporting highly-skilled jobs across the UK.”

Typhoon aircraft will be equipped with next-generation radar thanks to £317 million investment that will allow it to locate, identify and suppress enemy air defences using high-powered jamming.

The integration of the new European Common Radar System (ECRS) Mk2, which is based on Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology, will provide a capability edge in the increasingly contested battlespace.

Currently fitted with mechanically-scanning radar, the Typhoon is designed to be continuously upgraded to meet operational demand no matter the challenge or threat. The ECRS Mk2 will allow the aircraft to simultaneously detect, identify and track multiple targets in the air and on the ground in the most challenging environments.

Planned to be in service by the mid-2020s, the radar development programme will sustain hundreds of highly skilled jobs, including more than 300 at Leonardo’s Edinburgh site and 100 at their Luton site; 120 at BAE Systems’ site in Lancashire and 100 at their site in Dunfermline, Fife; and 50 at sub-contractor Meggitt in Stevenage.

Counter-drone technology

The Royal Air Force’s SYNERGIA counter-drone research and development programme has reached a significant milestone with the ORCUS counter-drone capability achieving initial operating capability (IOC). IOC was achieved after ORCUS completed successful testing of a full range of integrated detect, track, ID, and defeat technologies.

Vital to protecting UK air bases from hostile drone activity, ORCUS will enable the RAF to evaluate a range of capabilities including advanced radar, electro-optic and radio frequency sensors, plus an electronic attack countermeasure. The device looks similar to a camera module placed on top of a tripod, allowing for unparalleled versatility in operations.

The technology is part of the RAF’s Counter-Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) research and development programme with Leonardo to establish the most effective way to detect, track, identify and defeat hostile drones.

Elements of Leonardo’s C-UAS equipment played a supporting role in RAF Force Protection in 2018 and 2019, following drone sightings at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, allowing airport operations to resume.

The current phase of the programme, which started in 2019, supports more than 50 highly skilled jobs with over 20 at Leonardo, with the primary integration work undertaken at its Basildon and Southampton sites and real-time testing taking place at several MOD locations within the UK.

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£317m Contract to Develop Next Generation Radar for the Royal Air Force Typhoon
(Source: joint BAE Systems / Leonardo release; issued Sept. 03, 2020)
A £317m contract to develop the next generation of radar for the Royal Air Force's (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoons will sustain hundreds of jobs and develop technologies for the UK’s Future Combat Air System.

BAE Systems and Leonardo have been awarded a contract to develop the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) European Common Radar System Mark 2 (ECRS Mk2) to a standard ready to be integrated on to RAF Typhoons.

It will sustain more than 600 highly skilled jobs across the country, including more than 300 at Leonardo's site in Edinburgh, over 100 electronic warfare specialists at the company’s site in Luton, and 120 engineers at BAE Systems' site in Lancashire. The ECRS Mk2 is a multi-functional array (MFA) that will give UK Typhoons a world-leading Electronic Warfare capability, in addition to traditional radar functions, including wide band Electronic Attack.

It will equip RAF pilots with the ability to locate, identify and suppress enemy air defences using high-powered jamming. They can engage targets whilst beyond the reach of threats - even when they’re looking in another direction - and operate inside the range of opposing air defences, remaining fully protected throughout.

This game-changing capability will replace the mechanically-scanning radar that RAF Typhoons are currently equipped with and will ensure the UK retains the freedom to deliver air power wherever and whenever it is needed. It also enables Typhoon to link up with future data-driven weapons to combat rapidly evolving air defences, ensuring that UK Typhoons can continue to dominate the battlespace for years to come.

Andrea Thompson, Managing Director Europe & International for BAE Systems’ Air sector, said: "This capability will allow Typhoon to take its place in the future battlespace for decades to come, maturing key technologies for future combat air systems and ensuring interoperability.

“As well as securing highly-skilled jobs, it will sustain the key skills needed to keep the UK at the forefront of the global Combat Air sector. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the Eurofighter nations and our industry partners to ensure Typhoon delivers the needs of today and answers the challenges of tomorrow.”

Mark Hamilton, Senior Vice President Electronic Warfare, Leonardo said: “This contract is great news for the UK, which will get the world’s most capable fighter radar, and great news for British engineering. Inventing, developing and building advanced technology here in the UK allows us to understand and meet the specific requirements of our Armed Forces and to secure export orders all around the world, boosting the whole UK economy.”

The new radar will be based on Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology and will provide game-changing capabilities based on a revolutionary MFA.

It has significantly more Transmit-Receive Elements than other radars, making Mk 2 the most capable fighter AESA radar in the world, maintaining the same power and precision of traditional radars but also enabling the simultaneous operation of its wide-band Electronic Warfare functionality.

BAE Systems, the UK’s prime contractor for the Typhoon, will integrate the new sensor which will be developed by Leonardo, the UK’s defence electronics champion. Both companies are currently working as part of a four-nation development programme alongside Eurofighter consortium partners in Germany, Spain and Italy on a baseline version of the AESA radar. The ECRS Mk2 is a completely new approach designed to meet the operational needs of the RAF and future export customers.

The UK's commitment follows a similar commitment from Germany and Spain to deliver their own national requirements for an AESA radar.

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World-Leading Radar to Be Developed for RAF Typhoons
(Source: UK MoD Defence Equipment and Support; issued Sept. 03, 2020)
DE&S has helped negotiate the release of £317 million in funding to continue the development of a new world-leading radar for RAF Typhoons.

The continued development will see BAE Systems and Leonardo carry out the work, securing more than 600 highly-skilled jobs across the UK, including more than 300 at Leonardo’s Edinburgh site.

This maintains a highly-specialized, world-leading industry base that will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of radar technology development, which is essential for the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

“This continued development is the culmination of years of collaborative work with industry to deliver cutting edge radar capability to the RAF. It will sustain hundreds of highly-skilled jobs across UK industry and is central to the UK’s future combat air strategy”

The Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, known as European Common Radar System (ERS) Mk2, will have an electronic warfare and electronic attack capacity, in addition to ‘traditional’ radar capabilities, to locate, identify and then suppress enemy air defences using high-powered, wide-band jamming.

The advanced sensor technologies of the AESA equipped ECRS Mk2 will not only ensure UK Typhoon maintains a capability edge in the increasingly contested battlespace it will face in future years, but they are also central to the longer term and FCAS.

Air Vice Marshall Keith Bethell, Director Combat Air at DE&S, said: “I am delighted with the announcement of the contract for the development of the next generation radar capability for Typhoon.

“It is a product of persistent hard work from the Typhoon Enterprise in the UK, working with our colleagues in the European Partner Nations, to cement the agreements to progress the development of the ECRS Mk2 design through to a prototype radar.

“This project has strong ties to the Combat Air Strategy and promises to deliver a formidable leading-edge capability, whether it be for the continued evolution of Typhoon as a world-class combat air platform or in years to come as part of Future Combat Aircraft System.

“It comes at an important time for UK industry, retaining a sovereign workforce of hundreds, building further expertise and technological innovation, with much promise for the future.”

The radar development programme, negotiated by DE&S’ Typhoon delivery team, will see hundreds of highly skilled jobs sustained across the UK.

In addition to the jobs at Leonardo’s Edinburgh’s site, there are a further 100 at Leonardo’s Luton site, 120 at BAE Systems’ site in Lancashire, 100 at BAE’s site in Dunfermline, Fife and 50 at sub-contractor Meggitt in Stevenage.

Leonardo are leading the development of the new radar, designed to meet the specific needs of the RAF, and BAE Systems will deliver its integration onto Typhoon aircraft.

DE&S CEO Sir Simon Bollom said: “This continued development is the culmination of years of collaborative work with industry to deliver cutting edge radar capability to the RAF. It will sustain hundreds of highly-skilled jobs across UK industry and is central to the UK’s future combat air strategy.”

Currently, Typhoon is fitted with a mechanically-scanning radar, but in future it is planned to upgrade Typhoons to the new ECRS Mk2 hardware.

The technology provides access to advanced modes, including the ability to simultaneously detect, identify and track multiple targets in the air and on the ground in the most challenging environments.

This, along with ECRS Mk2’s electronic warfare capability, would ensure the RAF can protect UK land and maritime forces and deliver UK air power wherever it is needed in the world.

In addition, the introduction of a ground-breaking Multi-Function Array would ensure Typhoon’s continued viability and competitiveness in the export market.

The UK’s programme is being developed in parallel to similar commitments from Germany and Spain to deliver their own national requirements for an E-Scan radar.

It is planned to equip the RAF Typhoon aircraft from the mid-2020s.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: Interestingly, both the above British MoD announcement and the joint BAE Systems / Leonardo press release below make no mention of an Italian government financial participation in the development of the ECRS Mk. 2 radar.
This implicitly confirms rumors that Italy does not intend to retrofit its own Eurofighters with an AESA radar.
It should also be noted that the £317 million investment only covers continued development of the ECRS Mk.2, but neither its production nor its retrofit to the RAF’s fleet of Typhoons.
To compare, Germany and Spain are spending over €1.5 bn to develop and produce the Mk. 1 version of ECRS and to retrofit it to their own Eurofighters, which suggests that the total cost to the UK will exceed £ 1 billion.)


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