UK Defence Minister Jeremy Quinn today announced the UK would invest £317m in upgraded radars for the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons.

Announcing the contract at the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) 2020 event, Quinn 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.”

Quinn also announced that RAF counter-drone technology has successfully been deployed operationally.

The investment in the ASEA radar is set to safeguard 600 jobs and was recently included in a list nine ‘shovel-ready’ defence projects unions urged the UK government to fast track.

Work will be split between Leonardo and BAE Systems, with the new radar set to enter service in the mid-2020s. Work will be supported by subcontractor Meggitt.

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Commenting on the contract, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) director combat air Air Vice Marshall Keith Bethell 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.”

Under the contract, RAF Typhoons will be equipped with the European Common Radar System (ECRS) Mk2, which is based on Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology. UK Typhoons are currently outfitted with a mechanically-scanning radar.

Bethell added: “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 MOD said: “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.”

Image: MOD/ DE&S.

The ECRS Mk2 gives RAF Typhoons electronic warfare (EW) capabilities alongside the traditional functions of a radar. The ECRS Mk2’s EW capabilities include wideband electronic attack.

BAE Systems’ air sector managing director Europe & international Andrea Thompson 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.”

Leonardo Senior vice-president Electronic Warfare Mark Hamilton added: “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.”

Typhoon ASEA radar is on the upgrade path for several countries, including Germany and Spain which both recently confirmed plans to their Typhoon fleets with ASEA-based radars.

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.”

DE&S added that the new radar would maintain the Eurofighter Typhoons viability as an export aircraft going forward.

BAE Systems and Leonardo worked alongside European Eurofighter consortium partners to develop a baseline ASEA radar system. BAE said the ECRS Mk2 is ‘completely new approach designed to meet the operational needs of the RAF and future export customers.’

Through the contract, 300 at Leonardo’s Edinburgh site will be safeguarded as well as a 100 jobs at Leonardo in Luton, 120 at BAE Systems in Lancashire, 100 at BAE Systems in Dunfermline and 50 at Meggitt in Stevenage.