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The TYPHOON aircraft of the Royal Air Force (RAF) are to be equipped with a next-generation radar funded with £317 million (€356 million) in investments, the UK MoD announced on 3 September. The RAF is also one step closer in bringing its ORCUS technology into force: this can jam radio signals from drones and has already been successfully deployed during drone sightings at airports.

Speaking at the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) 2020 event, Defence Minister Jeremy Quin commented “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.” The new contract secures over 600 jobs and keeps the UK at the leading edge of radar technology development.

The TYPHOON radar development will enable the aircraft 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 400 at Leonardo, 220 at BAE Systems and 50 at Meggitt.

The RAF’s SYNERGIA counter-drone research and development programme has reached a significant milestone with ORCUS achieving initial operating capability (IOC) after successful testing of a full range of integrated detect, track, ID and defeat technologies. Vital to protecting UK air bases from hostile drone activity, the ORCUS counter-drone technology 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 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 operations in 2018 and 2019, following drone sightings at Gatwick and Heathrow airports, allowing airport operations to resume.

The new Typhoon radar investment will ensure the aircraft are equipped with world-class technology. (Image: Crown copyright)

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