Airbus Announces A New Eurofighter Typhoon ECR/SEAD variant

A rendering of the new Typhoon ECR concept. (Image credit: Eurofighter)

New Electronic Warfare systems for the Eurofighter Typhoon (and Saab Gripen).

Airbus announced a new Electronic Combat Reconnaissance (ECR)/Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) version of the Eurofighter Typhoon. The new project was first showcased during the Airbus Trade Media Briefing (TMB) on November 5 and then on November 12 during the International Fighter Conference.

The configuration presented by Airbus shows the Typhoon carrying two Escort Jammer Pods, three 1000 liters fuel tanks and six MBDA SPEAR-EW air-to-ground missiles (currently being developed for the Royal Air Force), in addition to the standard air-to-air loadout of four Meteor and two IRIS-T. Some artworks depict also the capability to employ the AGM-88B HARM or the AGM-88E AARGM. The Escort Jammer Pods will be complemented by two Emitter Locator Systems installed into the Typhoon’s wingtips. According to an infographic provided by Airbus, it will be possible to combine escort and stand-in jammers on the same aircraft.

An infographic of the Typhoon ECR/SEAD concept. (Image: Airbus)

As noted by Kurt Rossner, Head of Combat Aircraft Systems, the ECR/SEAD Eurofighter will “almost certainly” be a twin-seat aircraft with an Electronic Warfare Officer in the back seat. The front and rear cockpit will be independent from each other and the EWO will have a multi-function panoramic touch display and a dedicated mission cockpit at his disposal to perform the Electronic Warfare/Electronic Attack mission.

The initial capability for the Eurofighter ECR is expected by 2026 with a podded solution, while the full capability will be implemented by the end of the 2020s into the new airframes built as Long Term Evolution program standard. The new technologies will be further developed and fully integrated into the Future Air Combat System (FCAS). “We only will achieve a seamless transition into FCAS by leveraging the potential of today’s technologies and by exploiting their growth potential. And the Eurofighter ECR is a perfect example of this potential” said Raffael Klaschka, Eurofighter head of Strategic Marketing.

According to Airbus, the Eurofighter ECR concept specifically targets the German Air Force requirements for an airborne electronic attack capability to replace the Luftwaffe’s Tornado ECR, even if this wasn’t confirmed yet by the Ministry of Defense.

On November 4, 2019, just one day short of the Eurofighter’s first announcement, Saab performed the first flight test of its new advanced Electronic Attack Jammer Pod (EAJP). According to the company, the pod’s interfaces with the aircraft’s hardware and software as well as cockpit control and monitoring were successfully tested during the flight.

A JAS-39D Gripen during the first test flight of the new Electronic Attack Jammer Pod. (Photo: Saab)

The EAJP, part of Saab’s Arexis family of electronic warfare (EW) systems, is meant to complement the built-in electronic warfare systems on the Gripen E to provide an electronic attack (EA) capability similar to the Boeing EA-18G Growler, according to Petter Bedoire, Saab’s head of marketing and sales for EW. The pod is said to be compatible also with other aircraft.

According to Jane’s Defence, the Arexis EA Jammer Pod provides forward and afterward coverage to support the ingress, strike and egress of a package of aircraft in the target area. The pod utilizes a VHF/UHF surveillance and acquisition radar in the L and S bands that incorporates ultra-wideband digital receivers, DRFM (Digital Radio Frequency Memory) devices, gallium nitride solid-state AESA transmitters and interferometric direction-finding systems.

While exact specifications are not known due to the sensitive subject, the pod capabilities may be highly similar to the new Next Generation Jammer – Mid Band that the US Navy is currently testing on the EA-18G Growler.

Currently, the only dedicated SEAD aircraft in Europe (not considering the USAFE F-16CM Block 50) is the Tornado ECR, which is going to be retired in the next years, so it’s reasonable that Saab and Airbus are starting to develop a replacement for this important capability that, even in the era of fifth generation stealth aircraft, will still be needed to perform a variety of tasks on the battlefield.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.