Electronic Weapons: AESA For Rafale


November 7,2008: France has begun producing AESA radars for its next batch of 60 Rafale fighters, which will be entering service in two years. The AESA radars already installed in U.S. aircraft cost over two million dollars each.

AESA is much more capable than older radars. The multiple radar elements (mini-dishes) can simultaneously do different jobs, making it easier for an aircraft to handle tracking multiple aircraft, controlling missiles and performing electronic warfare tasks. For example, AESA is able to jam frequency hopping radios, which defeat jamming and being overheard by sending messages over a quickly changing, pre-arranged, set of different frequencies. AESA, by assigning each element a different frequency, you can shut down all, or enough, of the frequencies being used by the radio to jam it. Using the same technique, AESA can also capture what is actually being transmitted by a frequency hopping radio. These electronic warfare capabilities make AESA more than a radar, of course, and that's why pilots want it. The only problem is that it is very expensive to equip all aircraft with AESA. But as the price of the radar elements continues to come down, AESA will become more common. Future electronics warfare aircraft are expected to use AESA, no matter what the cost.

AESA radars are used on the U.S. Global Hawk UAV, and some models of the F-15 and F-18 fighters, and on the F-22 and F-35 fighters. China's new J10A fighter is also using an AESA radar.


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