Yep, for all the noise about Gripen’s AESA, its been there all the while and is now flying. Not only that, it is an AESA like no other because it comes with a Swash Plate. Which means it can swivel to cover a wider range.
So here is some stuff on the AESA for Gripen NG, off the swashplate:
Saab and SELEX Galileo are collaboratively developing the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar for the Gripen Next Generation (NG) programme.
The wide radar experience from both SELEX Galileo and the Saab Business Unit; Saab Microwave Systems will be combined in the joint radar development program. The AESA radar will be based on the SELEX Galileo Vixen AESA radar using functionality from the Vixen program, PS-05/A and other programs from both companies.
Compared to a conventional mechanically scanned antenna, an AESA offers greatly increased beam agility allowing AESA radars to function faster and respond more rapidly. AESA radars can accurately track many targets while still maintaining watch for new targets at long range. They provide better discrimination of multiple targets and are less likely to be defeated by target manoeuvres. AESA radars are also more effective against small, low radar cross-section targets which typically pose a challenge to previous generation radars.
Improved Target Tracking
With the inherent beam agility, target tracking can be more adaptive and time efficient. This will increase the radar tracking performance in a dense target environment. This facilitates the ability to choose the right target for weapon engagement, and to prepare the weapon with more accurate data i.e. enhance the fire control capability.
The beam agility will also increase the capability to perform search for new targets within a larger search volume while retaining the target track updates for current tracks. This will increase the pilot’s situation awareness.
Wide field of regard
With the swashplate solution the Gripen NG AESA radar has the ability to cover a scan angle up to ±100°. This will increase situation awareness and be used to increase the quality of SAR images. In BVR combat, wide angle scan also allows the aircraft to maintain track on the target whilst executing a 90° manoeuvre. This minimizes closure rate with the target, places one’s own aircraft in the enemy’s clutter return and still allows full guidance of BVR missiles.
“What we have in the Gripen AESA radar is a ‘Swashplate’. What we are doing is we have an AESA on a movable plate so you can rotate the antenna. That gives added capability to the AESA,” says Edvard de la Motte, Campaign Director for Gripen in India.
This allows the aircraft to have radar coverage from an angle of a hundred degrees from the center of the aircraft. “You can basically start looking a little bit backwards. And that gives you a fantastic edge, specifically when you’re doing air to ground, because you can look sideways or in the BVR (Beyond Visual Range) scenarios, where it’s important to be able to track your target,” explains de la Motte, adding, “The Gripen, with the radar would be able to turn a hundred degrees and still have radar lock on the opponent.”
With the beam agility it is possible to interleave different modes. This capability further increases the situation awareness for the pilot. For example, the pilot can use Air-to-Ground modes in parallel to Air-to-Air search and track.
Low Probability of Intercept
The AESA radar has qualities that makes the aircraft more difficult to detect by an enemy and thereby increases the aircrafts survivability. These qualities include lower radar cross section, ability to operate with reduced output power levels and side-lobe levels, and the agile beam used for random search and track patter
Increased Detection Range
Flexible beam and waveform control makes it possible to optimize modes for long and short range target acquisition. The AESA system is also able to be cued by other onboard sensors, eg Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) or by data from off-board resources such as Erieye. This will increase the pilot’s situation awareness and make it possible to take action earlier.
Improved Electronic Counter- Counter Measures
Future adaptive beam forming facilitate improved target detection in presence of several jammer signals. Situation awareness can then be maintained even in a dense RF-environment. This is important for survivability.
Increased Operational Availability
The modular design of the antenna, including the large numbers of transmit/receive modules, ensures graceful degradation. This means that the antenna will maintain excellent performance even with a percentage of failures. This ensures high availability which is an essential pre-requisite for high intensity operations.
The Gripen NG radar will include the innovative swashplate feature which significantly increases the radar performance at high angles off aircraft boresight. This will improve situational awareness through a wider coverage area and gives better quality SAR images at wider angles. In BVR combat the wide field of regard also enables tactics to be optimised.
Since the AESA antenna is built up from a large number of active transmit/receive modules, the failure of some of these modules has no noticeable effect on the system’s overall performance and reliability. Consequently, a radar with an AESA requires less maintenance than a conventional mechanically scanned radar system. This significantly increases the aircraft availability and reduces in-service costs.
The Gripen NG AESA radar consists of four line replaceable items (LRIs):
• The AESA, mounted on a repositioner
• Power supply unit for the AESA
• Exciter / Receiver for handling of the
radio frequency (RF) radar signal
• Processor for executing the radar control software