The Eurofighter Typhoon will soon be equipped with a new electronic warfare system, SPEAR-EW, capable of neutralizing the “most sophisticated air defenses”.
Multinational defense company MBDA is now working on a new electronic warfare version of the SPEAR weapon system, known as SPEAR-EW. It will use an advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) device as its payload, instead of a warhead and seeker.
According to the company, the SPEAR-EW is a smaller-version EW payload from Leonardo, which is built on the innovative BriteCloud technology. The system would operate as a swarm of cruise missiles capable of neutralizing the “most sophisticated air defenses”.
Using lesser capacity than a traditional warhead, the payload is also expected to have an extra fuel capacity, owing to its extra volume.
Also, the SPEAR EW’s integration is expected to be smooth, as it has been based on the existing SPEAR designs and therefore, has the same power, weight, and center of gravity.
#MBDA is working in partnership with #Leonardo to develop an electronic warfare version of the SPEAR weapon system — SPEAR EW — bringing enhanced Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) capability to #Eurofighter.#hxhanke #eurofightersuomelle
For more: https://t.co/xJvn6TAkfP pic.twitter.com/Fx6gsbLaXl
— Eurofighter Typhoon (@eurofighter) July 28, 2021
The SPEAR-EW will give additional power to the Eurofighter to overpower hostile air defenses. The system will play the role of a stand-in-jammer, enabling it to be used for various forms of electronic warfare. It can, therefore, act as a radar jammer as well as imitate multiple objects.
Interestingly, the SPEAR-EW can also be used to “create a decoy by making you appear bigger or appear as though there are 50 targets”, thus making it difficult for the enemy to locate and track the real target, the company says.
Also, the use of the SPEAR EW will not be confined to land targets, rather, it can also be used in naval strikes to confuse a ship.
The Eurofighter Typhoon
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a four-nation program, undertaken by Munich, Germany-based Eurofighter GmbH, and wholly-owned by BAE Systems of the UK, Alenia Aeronautica of Italy, the EADS Deutschland (formerly DaimlerChrysler) and EADS Spain (formerly CASA) — both of which are managed by Airbus Military.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a delta-wing, beyond-visual-range, close air fighter jet, with advanced capabilities of conducting surface attacks. The aircraft is also capable of maintaining speeds of over Mach 1 without using the afterburner.
It has two Eurojet EJ 200 engines, each of which is capable of providing a thrust of 90kN in full reheat and 60kN in dry power mode.
The aircraft is equipped with a CAPTOR (ECR 90) multimode X-band pulse-Doppler radar, which comprises three processing channels. It also has the PIRATE (passive infrared airborne track equipment).
When the PIRATE is used in tandem with the radar in an air-to-air role, it acts as an infrared search and track system (IRST), offering passive target detection and tracking.
The fighter jet has 13 hardpoints to carry weapons, and its armament control system (ACS) helps in the selection and firing of weapons as well as monitoring their status. Based on the requirement of the mission and role, the fighter can carry a mix of missiles.
Currently, seven nations, including Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Austria, Saudi Arabia and Oman, operate Eurofighter Typhoons.
Typhoons have been competing aggressively with French Rafales, US’ F-35 and SAAB Gripens for global fighter jets sales. After losing out to Rafales for the Indian fighter jet deal, it again competes for an Indian defense tender to supply nearly 114 multi-role jets to the Indian Air Force.
Last time, Eurofighter Typhoons and Rafales were shorlisted for the multi-billion dollar Indian contract, but Typhoons lost out due to two reasons.
According to Nitin J Ticku, an expert on Indian aviation, India picked the Rafale jets as France had no reservations about modifying the aircraft to carry a nuclear payload.
On the other hand, to get approval for equipping the Eurofighter Typhoon with nuclear payload would require consent from four different nations, an action that could prove to be time-consuming with a lot of uncertainty.
Secondly, India picked Rafale jets since IAF has a history of operating French fighter jets. The Mirage 2000, also developed and produced by Dassault Aviation was instrumental during the Kargil War in 1999 as well as the 2019 Balakot airstrikes.
This time again, the Typhoons will compete against Rafales for the Indian contract – MMRCA 2.0 and Russia’s new fighter jet – Checkmate could also be vying for the pie, Ticku observes.
While Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH coordinates the program on the industry side, the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) acts as the single point of contact for customers and governments, according to the company.
The SPEAR EW Program
According to MBDA, Leonardo’s Brite-Cloud is unmatched in offering advanced miniaturized technology. The company claims that the “Brite Cloud combined with SPEAR provides an EW capability that’s unrivaled”.
The work done by the MBDA and Leonardo in the past is now being taken forward by a one-year Technical Demonstration Programme (TDP) contract signed between the MBDA and Leonardo and Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S).
The MBDA says that the aim will be to make sure the development of the SPEAR EW is in tandem with the main SPEAR program to enable the eventual integration to be a smooth process.
The company further says that the aim of the SPEAR is to “create a swarm of network-enabled miniature cruise missile weapons able to saturate and neutralize the most sophisticated air defenses“.
The SPEAR EW along with the other SPEAR variants is likely to enhance the capability, diminishing the requirement of repeating platform combinations. The company further says that new variants, spirals, and advanced technology are currently being worked upon.
A Big Boost For Eurofighter?
The Eurofighter Typhoon has emerged as a strong contender in many of the recent fighter jet deals around the world. Earlier The EurAsian Times reported that it was one of the top contenders for the Swiss Air Force deal, which was finally bagged by Lockheed Martin F-35.
— NATO Air Command (@NATO_AIRCOM) July 28, 2021
According to reports, the aircraft is also in the race for a Finnish Air Force deal, considered Europe’s biggest fighter jet deal, worth $12 billion.
It is expected that the upcoming enhancements will increase the offensive capability of the Eurofighter Typhoon manifold.
According to the MBDA, the SPEAR EW can enhance the capability of the aircraft, as it “can be projected either over a long distance or for a long time”, while the pilot of the aircraft can use the in-built sensors for effects.
As the aircraft is capable of carrying a mixed payload depending on the mission, it can now carry three SPEAR EWs and as many as nine regular SPEAR missiles.