The Eurofighter weapon system is the Luftwaffe's main capability in the field of airborne air defense and attack capability. As part of the necessary expansion of the capabilities of the Eurofighter, the German Bundestag approved the installation of a state-of-the-art AESA radar system for the German Eurofighter fighter aircraft on June 17, 2020.
Um to realize the urgently needed increase in capabilities for the German Eurofighter fleet in the field of sensor technology, HENSOLDT has now become the responsible developer and producer of the Radarsystems commissioned. The scaffolding in the German fleet is carried out at Airbus Defense and Space.
The basis for the now decided development to the ECRS (= Eurofighter Common Radar System) Mk1 is the CAPTOR-E Mk0 radar system of the Euroradar consortium, which is currently in production and delivery to Kuwait. While this already has electronic beam swiveling and thus has superior detection and tracking capabilities compared to its mechanically swiveled predecessor, the CAPTOR-M, the ECRS Mk1 will have significantly increased reconnaissance and fire control capabilities. As a national key technology and central sensor of the Eurofighter, the new radar is therefore of particular importance.
All Eurofighters of the German Air Force are expected to receive the radar developed and built in Germany (either in the Mk0 or Mk1 version) as part of a retrofit program and as part of planned maintenance measures from 2023. The program is being carried out in close cooperation with Spain, where the Eurofighter fleet is also to be converted and modernized accordingly.
In order to equip the German Eurofighters with the operationally urgently needed so-called E-Scan capabilities (E-Scan = electronic beam swiveling) as early as possible, the delivery of Mk0 radars will begin in 2023 as part of the “Early Embodyment”. These Mk0 radars will later be upgraded to Mk1 standard as part of planned maintenance measures.
In addition to the AESA design, the new ECRS Mk1 radar system uses the latest technologies. These include a multi-channel receiver newly developed with the latest hardware, as well as particularly powerful X-band transmit / receive modules (TRM) with an extended frequency range and higher bandwidth. Software and firmware are also being extensively revised and expanded, both to improve performance and to integrate new functionalities.
In the final stage, the Mk1 radar should offer extensive operational functional expansions, including the ultra-high-resolution imaging SAR (UHR-SAR), as well as target recognition through STAP processing. The ability to additionally mechanically align the antenna using a so-called "repositioner" also gives the radar an extremely large field of view (Wide Field of Regard) compared to conventional fixed AESA antennas. The Mk1 should take up the same installation space as the previous CAPTOR-E Mk0 and thus offer an excellent retrofit option for existing fleets with extensive growth potential.
The development of the Mk1 radar is a central national key technology in the field of sensor technology and strengthens Germany's role in the Eurofighter consortium. With the new radar development and production, HENSOLDT takes the lead in the European consortium for the first time. Both the technology and the acquired know-how of the national industry with more than half a dozen companies involved will thus contribute to increasing the capabilities of the German and international Eurofighter fleet and lay important foundations for future German participation in future projects such as FCAS. Particularly in the area of software adjustments for the growth of capabilities, operational requirements can be taken into account and implemented independently with the radar development. A German company is directly benefiting the Bundeswehr here started Airborne Radar development. The close cooperation with Indra (Spain) is intended to ensure an efficient division of labor and an effective exchange of knowledge and thus contribute significantly to the success of the overall program.
With the new radar, the Eurofighter will in future be provided with a top-quality main sensor in order to improve the survivability of the platform even in highly intensive conflicts. German key technology makes the Air Force's Eurofighter ready for the challenges of the next decade.
HENSOLDT is a platform-independent provider of electronic sensor solutions in the defense and security sector. The company has state-of-the-art production and testing capabilities at its German locations, which are specially designed for high-performance airborne radar systems such as the Eurofighter radar. This includes in particular one of the largest European clean room production facilities for highly complex RF components at the Ulm location. This allows the delivery of high-performance products "Made in Germany" to national and international customers.
The series ramp-up of the CAPTOR-E Mk0 has already taken place and the material for the units currently required has been procured from suppliers. The first delivery of series-ready copies for flight campaigns took place as planned in 2018; Delivery of the series models for Kuwait began in 2019.
HENSOLDT puts its many years of experience from the development of the European Eurofighter radar at the service of the user nations. This means that HENSOLDT can fall back on continuously available expert knowledge and is therefore optimally prepared to take on development responsibility as part of the Mk1 program - also with regard to the delivery of essential core components such as the transmitter / receiver modules and the multi-channel receiver.
Erwin Paulus is a member of the Executive Committee and Head of Radar / IFF HENSOLDT.