Airbus Defence and Space (DS) has showcased a new electronic attack and counter-ground-based air defence variant of the Eurofighter combat aircraft as it looks to secure Germany's Tornado replacement requirement.
Speaking at the company's Manching facility in southern Germany on 5 November, Kurt Rossner, head of Air Combat, provided the first insight into Airbus DS plans for an Electronic Combat Reconnaissance (ECR)/Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) version of the Eurofighter to replace the Luftwaffe's Tornado ECR aircraft. This Tornado ECR replacement covers 40 aircraft as part of the wider Tornado IDR/ECR replacement programme for 85 aircraft.
As noted by Rossner, the ECR/SEAD configuration is a collaborative German industrial effort and forms part of the key technology roadmap for the aircraft. An ECR/SEAD Eurofighter offers the possibility of combining the escort and stand-in jammer platforms of any strike package, with an initial capability to be gained through podded systems before a more integrated solution is developed.
The ECR/SEAD configuration shown by Airbus comprises a pair of escort jammer pods on the underwing stations currently typically used to carry drop tanks, while three 1,000 litre tanks would be carried on the centreline and two inboard underwing pylons. These three stations are currently 'dry', and would need to be plumbed to carry fuel tanks. The aircraft is also shown carrying the SPEAR-EW weapon recently showcased by MBDA as a future SEAD weapons system, wingtip emitter locator stations, and both short- and long-range air-to-air missiles.
As noted by Rossner, the ECR/SEAD Eurofighter would "almost certainly" be a twin-seat aircraft with the rear cockpit devoted to operating the complex mission systems.
The ECR/SEAD configuration is part of a wider long-term capability development plan for the Typhoon combat aircraft that will span the coming decades.
Announced at the Paris Airshow in June, this project that has been agreed with the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) on behalf of the partner countries, is called the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) plan.
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