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Saab to Start Flight Testing of AREXIS

Electronic warfare pod to fly by end of the year

Company officials told MONCh during EW Europe, being held in Stockholm 14-15 May, that flight trials of the company’s AREXIS electronic warfare pod would be performed on-board a Saab JAS-39C GRIPEN fighter.

The pod covers a waveband of 150 megahertz to four gigahertz. Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) architecture is used in its design. This enables the pod to rapidly switch between innovative jamming waveforms and to perform electronic beam steering using its antennas. This is a particularly useful attribute when the aircraft carrying the pod needs to perform off-boresight jamming. Such an approach is highly relevant when the aircraft must remain outside the main lobe of a radar while still needing to jam the radar.

Electronic beam-steering allows amming to be injected into the radar’s side lobes, thus helping to mask the aircraft from detection.

Saab has taken an innovative approach for the AREXIS design. Company officials stated that the pod is designed not only to protect individual aircraft, but also a strike package of four-to-five jets ingressing and egressing a target. The presence of forward and rearward facing antennas on the pod enables the aircraft to continue providing both spot and barrage jamming when a package of aircraft is leaving contested airspace, as well as during its approach to the target. To this end, the company is billing AREXIS as an escort jammer as much as for individual aircraft self-protection.

In terms of concepts of operations Saab foresees the pod helping to provide a layered approach to aircraft self-protection, effectively spanning the tactical and operational levels of electronic warfare application. In this sense, AREXIS can be used as a stand-off jammer and for the collection of ELINT (Electronic Intelligence).

ELINT can be recorded for analysis after a mission, or transmitted in real time using the aircraft’s communications systems. Saab has employed a modular approach to the pod’s design with the ELINT function a capability that can be added by customers if so desired.

Company officials continued that the pod is fully compatible with the US Department of Defense’s MIL-STD-1553 databus protocol. This will enable AREXIS to outfit a multitude of combat aircraft which employ this protocol. Moreover, due to the high level of autonomy in the pod’s architecture it can equip a single-seat fighter with Saab stating that the addition of the apparatus will not adversely affect the pilot’s workload. Interestingly, Saab’s work on the MFS-EW Integrated Self-Protection System (ISPS) for the Saab JAS-39E/F fighter has been instrumental in the pod’s realisation.

Much of the technology equipping the pod has been derived from technology utilised for the MFS-EW. Saab sources added that a prototype of the JAS-39E’s ISPS is already equipping one of the JAS-39E prototype aircraft, and that flight testing is underway. The pod’s development is being financed by Saab, although the firm is actively seeking customers for the product. Although not confirmed by Saab, Germany has been touted as one potential buyer. Saab expects to complete AREXIS flight testing in 2020.

Dr. Tom Withington


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