The Eurofighter Typhoon Instrumented Series Production Aircraft (ISPA 6) is being designed as one of the world’s most sophisticated fighter aircraft, especially with its array of weapons systems. One of these is the Electronic Scan (E-SCAN) radar system being developed by Leonardo and partners for Kuwait and other countries. The Eurofighter Typhoon ISPA 6 (see the figure) is one of the three EF Typhoon test aircraft equipped with the E-SCAN radar, made by Leonardo UK as part of the EuroRadar Consortium. The radar has a much wider field of view than earlier, mechanically scanned radar systems but it is also designed for difficult or what are considered “smart” targets, which are targets that might employ artificial intelligence (AI) to send false signals to a radar system. Because of the radar system’s sophistication, advanced test techniques are required to confirm that the radar can adapt to changing targets and operating conditions.
Mario Mutti, Head of Project Test Pilot Fighters and Standardization at Leonardo's Aircraft Division, shares some of the testing details: “The testing campaign for the new radar is particularly demanding. There is a need for very large and dedicated work areas, the support of other aircraft that act as ‘smart’ targets, an extremely accurate post-flight data analysis that involves multiple sites (in Italy and partner countries) and optimizes the ‘set-ups’ of the next flight.”
Mutti credits partner countries and their engineering talent for help in testing: “The Italian Air Force contributes in a fundamental way: the aircraft available in support of test flights are always on time and offer a very consistent capability both quantitatively and in terms of skill. The complex scenarios planned in flight are possible only thanks to the experience of the military pilots and our two-seater prototype that allows for synergy, even in the cockpit, between test pilot and flight test engineer.”
The new radar is a very capable but complex system, with details being worked out internationally on both hardware and software. Recent ISPA 6 testing has involved exercising electronic-counter-countermeasures (ECCM) radar capabilities with the goal of achieving final E-SCAN software release certification progressing to further software testing by the end of the year. The advanced radar is only one subsystem within one of the battlefield’s most complex weapons systems and that integration is critical to effectiveness, with total capabilities depending upon many different sensors and electronic functions.