by David Crane
defrev at gmail.com
May 30, 2008
DefenseReview has been hearing some pretty great things about the Eurofighter Typhoon multi-role combat fighter aircraft’s performance, from its excellent flight characteristics to its pilot-friendly cockpit, to its helmet-mounted display and targeting system. What’s interesting is that it can perform so well acrobatically, even without thrust vectoring. Advanced electronic fly-by-wire flight controls, combined with pitch-unstable design and forward canards, no doubt, assist in giving the Typhoon its superb aerial capability, even without thrust vectoring. However, it would be interesting to see what it could do if full-aspect thrust vectoring were added to the exhaust nozzles of the Typhoon’s two "staggeringly powerful"/simple-architecture Eurojet EJ200 turbofan engines.
Defense Review has heard rumors that conventional/non-low-observable fighter aircraft have been rendered virtually invisible to radar and
made to be almost as low-observable as the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor to airborne and ground radars. This was apparently accomplished as early as the 1970s (unconfirmed/unverified) as an experiment on a conventional/non-low-observable U.S. fighter aircraft. If full-aspect thrust vectoring and true low-observability (not just reduced observability a.k.a. reduced radar signature) could be added to the Eurofighter Typhoon, it might might rival the F-22, at least until Raptor pilots get the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS). That said, current low obsrvability/stealth tech is rendered moot if Russian fighter jets and ground radars employ ultra-short pulse radar (USPR) that can see and track low-observable/stealth aircraft like the F-22, particularly if the USPR tech is exported to the third-world countries we like to fight. If the Russians are utilizing ultra-short pulse radar and exporting it to enemy countries like Iran, it probably wouldn’t pay to "stealthify" the Typhoon any further.
Either way, the F22 would still have the aerodynamic advantage over a low-observable/vectored-thrust Typhoon with respect to armament, since the Raptor carries it’s missiles and bombs internally, thereby eliminating any type of external armament radar signature or aerodynamic drag on the aircraft.
The question is, how much would it cost to add thrust vectoring and low-observable hardware/technology to the Typhoon. And, part two of the question is can the aircraft be made low-observable with a full missile load. We’ll try to find out.
Eurofighter claims that the Typhoon’s mechanically scanned Captor (Captor-M) radar is superior to first generation Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, but AESA radar is now available on Tranche 3 Typhoons as an option. According to Euroradar’s Michael Bischoff Captor-M is "the best mechanically scanned radar in the world–much better than the competition" and has some unique capabilities that no other mechanically scanned radars can match. This includes the ability to "priority track", interrupting the normal scan pattern in ordert to concentrate on a particular area of interest. "Captor is the only mechanically scanned radar that does this." Bischoff said.
Even though electronically-scanned radars can scan more quickly, searching and tracking up to 33% more quickly than mechanically-scanned radars, the Captor-M has greater range and azimuth coverage, especially towards the edges of the scan, where energy losses due to phase shifting can dramatically reduce the performance of AESA radar.
"The only AESA radar that will come anywhere close to holding its own against Captor is the APG-63(V)-5 being developed for USAF F-15s" according to one Selex source.