Farnborough Air Show

Sixth-gen Radar Slated for Tempest Fighter Program

 - July 19, 2022, 3:04 AM

Leonardo has unveiled details of an unprecedented partnership with Japan on combat jet sensor technology for the UK-led Tempest sixth-generation fighter program. The company is working with Mitsubishi Electric (Melco) in a program they have dubbed JAGUAR (Japan and Great Britain Universal RF system).

The UK and Japanese governments signed a memorandum of cooperation on fighter technologies in December 2021. But Andrew Howard, director of major air programs at Leonardo, said that Leonardo and Melco first began discussions in 2018. That evolved into a joint concept earlier this year, with feasibility studies to explore technology such as high-power digitization of a radar antenna head; the layering of printed circuit boards to shrink the space occupied; and the use of gallium arsenide in new processor applications. Now the two companies have signed contracts with their respective national defense ministries to move forward.

Results from the JAGUAR partnership will feed into the sixth-generation radar for Tempest, designated the MRFS (Multi-Function RF System). The MRFS is part of a wider concept for Tempest avionics named Integrated Sensing and Non-Kinetic Effects and Integrated Communications System (ISANKE), which aims to achieve deep integration of all the onboard sensors, including infrared search and track, electro-optics, and defensive aids subsystem, as well as the radar. That would be achieved by a digital backbone and networking, independent of the mission computer.

An integrated communications system is also part of ISANKE, connecting the Tempest with other aspects of the Future Combat Air System, which extends networking to offboard platforms, such as UAVs. 

“It’s clear now, we are developing a major relationship with Melco,” said Howard. “Our early concerns were unfounded. We are complementary. They have a more cautious approach, but that helps us as a reality check.” Melco has plenty of radar experience: it produced the radar for the F-2, a Japan Air Self-Defense Force version of the F-16. The joint work will also have application to the F-X, Japan’s own future fighter program.

Howard said that workshare arrangements for any full-scale development are yet to be explored. “All of the Tempest technology programs will eventually have to be funded multilaterally, but for the moment, it is from sovereign budgets," he said.