FARNBOROUGH—BAE Systems has begun flight tests of a Eurofighter Typhoon fitted with the Captor-E active electronically-scanned array (AESA), or so-called “e-scan” radar.                                                                       

The flight trials, the first of which took place July 8, come almost two years after Instrumented Production Aircraft 5 (IPA5) debuted with the prototype Euroradar Captor-E at the 2014 Farnborough International Airshow. However, the company did not receive clearance to turn the radar on, so flight testing has not been able to proceed until now.

“This is just the beginning of a long flight test campaign,” said Paul Smith, aircrew adviser for the Typhoon program at BAE Systems, speaking to journalists here July 13.

Smith said ground testing already has shown promising capability, but it could be several weeks or even months before the radar is actually switched on in flight.

The Captor-E will be introduced to the Typhoon as part of the Phase 3B Enhancements program. This will introduce the baseline production standard of the radar, known as Radar 1+, and it will be these P3E(B) aircraft that will be delivered to Kuwait, making the Middle East nation the first export customer to receive aircraft fitted with the e-scan radar.

P3E(B) also will introduce the capability to drop the Enhanced GBU-16 Paveway laser-guided bomb and to use the Sniper target designation pod.

The partner nations also want additional sovereign capabilities for the radar. Britain’s Radar 2 development will feature more advanced AESA capabilities such as electronic attack. Future developments of the radar are expected to include greater cross-cueing of information from the aircraft’s passive sensors and improvements in radar autonomy and lessened pilot workload.

IPA5 will mainly be used for environmental data collection, ensuring the aircraft can operate safely with the sensor, which is heavier and requires more electrical power than its mechanically scanned equivalent.

IPA 5 will be joined by a second radar test aircraft, IPA8, a German Tranche 3 aircraft, later this year.

The Eurofighter partner nations are still defining the next stage of enhancements for the aircraft, called P4E, which is likely to deliver the full operational capability of the Captor-E as well as updates to the defensive aids suite. There also are proposals for the integration of an anti-ship missile, the MBDA Marte-ER, and the British Spear III network-enabled powered glide bomb for the destruction and suppression of enemy air defenses. P4E would likely enter service around 2021.

There also will be trials of the Litening IV targeting pod and the follow-on Litening V pod in 2017.

The Typhoon was displayed here in the U.K.’s Centurion configuration, carrying a mixed load of fuel tanks, Meteor and Asraam air-to-air missiles along with the Paveway IV and Brimstone. As part of Project Centurion, the U.K. Royal Air Force wants its Typhoons to be ready to take on the full gamut of air-to-ground capabilities, including the ability to fire the Storm Shadow cruise missile by the end of 2018, in time for the retirement of the RAF’s Panavia Tornado GR4s in April 2019.

The integration of Storm Shadow under the P2E(A) program is continuing, with June 13 seeing the first launch from the aircraft, while six firings of the Meteor air-breathing beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile—being integrated as part of P2E(B)—have been performed this year. Initial firing trials of Brimstone, to be introduced as part of P3E(A), are slated to take place in the first quarter of 2017.

The P2E program is scheduled to be delivered to the partner nations for customer evaluations and training in 2017. P3E should be delivered in 2018.