October 04, 2012
Credit: Credit: Eriz Raz/Thales
More than a decade behind the U.S., the first European fighter equipped with an active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar has been delivered to a customer.
Dassault delivered Rafale serial number C137, the first production aircraft equipped with a Thales RBE2 AESA, to French defense procurement agency DGA on Oct. 2.
The aircraft will be used by the French air force trials center CEAM at Mont-de-Marsan for operational evaluation of the new radar. Development flight testing is complete.
Production deliveries to operational units will not begin until mid-2013, Dassault says, as another five or six Rafales with mechanically scanned RBE radars remain to be delivered.
U.S. manufacturers, meanwhile, are moving to tap a potential 1,000-aircraft market to upgrade Lockheed Martin F-16s with AESAs, beginning with Taiwan, South Korea and the U.S. Air Force itself.
Spurred by the expectations of the export market, European fighter manufacturers are moving to catch up with their U.S. rivals on offering active-array radars. Availability of Thales’ RBE2 AESA on the Rafale was a key element in Dassault’s January victory in India’s 126-fighter medium multi-role combat aircraft competition.
In July, the four European nations behind the Typhoon fighter, which lost in India, asked the Eurofighter consortium for firm proposals to develop an AESA for fielding in 2015. Eurofighter and the Selex Galileo-led Euroradar consortium already are working on an AESA on industry funds, but a formal development contract is expected early next year.
Eurofighter, meanwhile, has begun flight testing the final set of Phase 1 Enhancements (P1E) for the Typhoon. Accomplished through two separate software releases, the P1E “robust simultaneous multirole capability” upgrade will establish the aircraft baseline for the AESA upgrade, Eurofighter says.