Thales’ RBE2 AESA Radar Production Output
France, Egypt, Qatar & India contracted
Thales has delivered 32 out of 60 RBE2-AA active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars contracted in 2012 to equip France’s new-build RAFALE fighters, with deliveries not set to resume until three current export orders have been fulfilled.
When Egypt, Qatar and India placed orders for RAFALE fighters between 2015 and 2016, the new AESA radar was contracted, so domestic customer France agreed to pause deliveries of its new-build examples to pave way for these orders.
Production output is currently at two radars per month, and it is due to continue at this rate until current production orders are delivered. The 32 delivered come under the Tranche IV contract signed in 2012.
Manufacturing switched over to fulfil export orders for Egypt when the nation bought 24 examples in February 2015, and nine RBE2s have been delivered to Egypt to date, Bruno Gilon, product line manager for combat aircraft at Thales, told MONS at the company’s Rouen, France media facility on 31 May.
Manufacturing will move over to the other two export customers – Qatar and India – after this, with deliveries beginning in 2019 and completing in 2020, Gilon says. Qatar ordered 24 RAFALEs with the AESA radar in May 2015, and India followed with an order for 36 examples in September 2016.
Once export orders are manufactured – including any more purchases that may be made in the meantime – Thales and Dassault will deliver the remaining 28 RAFALEs to France.
Thales says the current requirement is for France to just acquire this initial batch of RBE2s for the new aircraft, and there is no intention at present to retrofit aircraft that are already in service.
Prior to contracting the RBE2 in 2012, France ordered in excess of 130 passive electronically scanned array versions of the RBE2, which Thales says will not be replaced like-for-like with the AESA, but instead the current planning is for France to just purchase the 60 active arrays.
The radar is plug and play, and can be swapped out between the different aircraft, Gilon said, while also benefitting from being free of International Traffic in Arms Regulations restrictions that influence the sale of US technology.
“This is a combat proven radar that has been in production for four years,” he added, noting that this is the first production-standard and operational AESA for a non-US aircraft.
Additionally, Gilon said that the company is aiding discussions with the French ministry of defence on what the F4 standard will comprise.
“The aim is to keep leading in fighter AESA production,” Gilon said.
So far as future development of the AESA radar goes, he said compacity and efficiency will be worked on, and gallium nitride and silicon germanium technologies are being considered, as well as multi-function array antennas.
“We have an elaborate roadmap for the short term, medium term, and the future,” he said.