German Procurement Of Eurofighter AESA Radars Goes Forward

The German Parliament approved the procurement of CAPTOR-E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for the German Air Force’s Eurofighter fleet on 17 May. 110 CAPTOR-E sets have been ordered in a contract worth more than €2 billion ($2.2 billion). The radars will be retrofitted to the German Air Force’s Tranche 2 and 3 Eurofighters.

The development, production and integration of the CAPTOR-E MK1 radars is to be handled by Hensoldt. Hensoldt is a main contractor for the development of the CAPTOR-E AESA, although the project as a whole is developed by a consortium led by the United Kingdom. Work will be carried out at Hensoldt’s Ulm radar centre, with Hensoldt expecting its €1.5 billion share of the contract to create 400 more jobs over the course of the program. Airbus will be receiving around €500 million as well for integration work to be carried out at its Manching facility, which will be the testing and integration facility for the new radars.

Hensoldt photo of a German Air Force Eurofighter fitted with the CAPTOR-E undergoing testing.

Hensoldt CEO, Thomas Müller, commented on the news in a press release, saying:

“With this decision, Germany is taking on a pioneering role in the field of key technology for the Eurofighter for the first time.

This will create high-tech jobs in Germany and give the Bundeswehr the equipment it needs to respond to new threats. In addition, it is a signal for Europe that Germany is investing in a technology that is of crucial importance for European defence cooperation.”

The procurement of the CAPTOR-E makes Germany the first core Eurofighter operator (the other core operators being the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy) to procure AESA radars for its Eurofighters. While the CAPTOR-E has been undergoing flight testing for some time, the first production CAPTOR-E only took flight in December 2019 aboard a Kuwaiti Eurofighter. Qatar has ordered Eurofighters equipped with the CAPTOR-E as well.

The CAPTOR-E is mounted on a gimbal, allowing the AESA array to be moved, increasing the scanned area in a manner similar to that of the ES-05 Raven AESA used by the Saab Gripen E. Airbus claims that the large radome of the Eurofighter allows for a greater degree of movement and hence an even larger scanned area.

A German Air Force Eurofighter takes off at Rostock-Laage Airport.

The German procurement of the CAPTOR-E will provide Airbus and Hensoldt with experience that will prove crucial for the Future Combat Air System program, which is now using a “system of systems” approach. Upgraded Eurofighters are a key part of the program, with Germany procuring more Eurofighters to replace its Panavia Tornadoes by 2025 as well as replacing its Tranche I Eurofighters under Project Quadriga. Additionally, the contract would be a shot in the arm for Airbus’ defense division, which is facing major job cuts due to Airbus’ revenue dropping drastically following the Coronavirus Pandemic.