Electronic Warfare can be divided in three different segments; electronic protection; electronic attack that is SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence) for which internal sensors and external items have been fitted; and finally ESM (Electronic Support Measures) that allow to understand the threat that faces the aircraft. All those are integrated in the “Echo” model and allow acquiring a track of sufficient quality to carry out a missile engagement, firing it with high probability of kill on the metadata acquired, or on those provided by a buddy aircraft.
The Gripen E is fitted with the latest generation Arexis EW system, which can cope with most recent threats. “What used to be easy, with communications signals very low in frequency and radars in higher frequencies, is changing, and boundaries between comms and radars are becoming blurred, with radars trying to hide themselves into communication signals, so the situation is getting contested,” Mikael Corp, Sales Director EW says. The system ensures spherical coverage no matter how the aircraft is manoeuvred, operates in a wide band, and digitises signals as soon as possible feeding them into the processing unit that uses AI-based algorithms to provide immediate identification and, if needed, warning. Artificial Intelligence provides considerable help in the identification process; “traditionally ID was parameter-based but nowadays, since threats are trying to hide, we must look not only at parameters but also at the behaviour,” Mikael Corp explains, and in that AI is a key element, EDR On-Line understood.
Another step forward is the use of AESA antennas, which permit to direct higher power levels compared to standard ones; not only, they allow to control the beam, the frequency, and other parameters, to create multiple beams, to quickly shift frequencies, but they also ensure graceful degradation. According to Mikael Corp the integrated solution adopted on the Gripen E ensures the best accuracy in direction finding mode, thanks to the numerous antennas (their number remains classified) installed on wingtips and rudder, allowing measuring the phase change.
On the “Echo” wingtips are bigger than in the “Charlie”, hence bigger sensors and more computing power can be installed. “When talking about ESM, the whole electromagnetic scene can be generated in a matter of seconds to minutes, even when operating in full passive mode, the latest Arexis covering an ultrawide band ensuring maximum coverage.”
Should the mission require to further improving the aircraft EW capabilities, the Arexis electronic attack jammer pod can be added. “This is a self-funded programme that was started around five years ago. We took some of the Arexis building blocks, put them into a pod, and in two years time we started flight tests, some more being planned soon to verify the updated software and new functionalities,” Mikael Corp adds. Currently the pod is considered at TRL 6-7, as it has been through flight tests but not yet through operational testing, and Saab says several potential customers have shown interest. While DF is more accurate with the Arexis integrated into the aircraft, adding the pod allows getting higher power, providing protection not only to the platform that carries it but also to other ship within the formation. Beside its use on the Gripen E, Saab is proposing its Arexis in the latest version, which also includes the pod, on the EW market, one of its main targets being the German Typhoon ECR programme, which will replace Luftwaffe ECR Tornados, which are equipped with an EW suite developed by the Swedish company.
To further extend the EW range Saab is cooperating with MBDA for developing a version of the Spear EW. “Here too we exploit the Arexis technology, and for example we record incoming signals, slightly modify them, and send them back, and by doing so we can lure the enemy sensor changing target parameters such as speed or others.”EDR On-Line understood the programme is in the early stages of development; it is carried out both at the Saab Technology Centre in Tampere, Finland, specialised in compact electronic microwave components, and in Järfälla, this facility hosting the Swedish side of Saab’s EW business.
The Spear EW version under development by Saab will differ from that aimed at the UK Royal Air Force, and is based on a different requirement by a potential customer. Discussions between Saab and the Swedish Air Force on that subject are ongoing, and should they come to fruition they will lead to full development and integration on the new fighters.