Since 1949, the US government has devoted
This largesse provided is not completely without strings attached. Although the
Nowhere in IsraelÂs aerospace industry has the USAÂs implied export restrictions had more effect than the airborne radar sector.
Only a few countries in the world possess the technology to produce a modern, electronically scanned fire control radar. The
Attempts to capitalise on this capability has several times been rebuffed by IsraelÂs military patrons in the
But something has happened in the past year to break a perceived US block on the export of IsraelÂs AESA technology. Either the
IAI executives have confirmed to Flightglobal that the X-band EL/M-2052 AESA radar for fighters is not only for sale, but has been sold to two export customers.
ÂItÂs in production for two foreign customers,Â says
Licht declines to identify the customers or fighter types involved in the sales contracts. IAI has described the EL/M-2052 as generally suitable for single-engined aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-16, Northrop F-5,
The applications involved in the first two export deals appear to fall on the low end of the fighter market. The key enabling technology of the AESA radar is the transmitter/receiver (T/R) module. The Northrop APG-77, for example, is packed with more than 1,500 T/R modules, making the F-22Âs radar among the most powerful AESA systems.
Licht described the export versions of the EL/M-2052 now in production as having two different sizes. One is equipped with Âsomething like 512Â T/R modules. The other export customer has Âa little more than 300Â T/R modules, as the antenna Âwas adapted to the nose of the fighterÂ .
Elta, however, has invested heavily to stay competitive, with domestic foundries producing ÂthousandsÂ of T/R modules every year, Licht says.
ÂWe have in Elta very significant experience in [electronically scanned array] radars,Â he says.
The investment has paid off well beyond the fighter aircraft market. Elta is producing electronically scanned radars in a variety of configurations, including conformal early warning radars, ground-based missile and projectile defence systems, and electronic warfare systems, he says.
Applications for electronically-scanned antennas are growing now in the maritime domain. The company is currently developing a maritime patrol radar for unmanned and manned patrol aircraft.
The EL/M-2022ES features a radar array that combines mechanical scanning in azimuth and electronic scanning in elevation.
ÂFrom the point of view of weight, price and other aircraft resources, for maritime surveillance itÂs not very cost-effective to have a fully electronically scanned radar,Â Licht says.
In a fighter aircraft, electronic scanning is essential. A previous generation of mechanically scanned array radar has difficulty in remaining locked on to targets that are moving rapidly while its own aircraft is also manoeuvring aggressively.
The operational dynamics of maritime surveillance are very different, and usually involve stable platforms and relatively slow-moving or even stationary targets.
At the same time, some customers have pushed radar companies to incorporate electronically scanned arrays in maritime patrol radars.
ÂIt brings some [benefits] with electronically-scanned in elevation, especially when you have enough processing power to apply very sophisticated algorithms which enable you to squeeze the last possible ounce of performance,Â Licht says.
Another benefit of electronic scanning in elevation is that it simplifies the construction of the antenna, Licht says. The radar has to be designed to move only in a single dimension Â a clockwise motion.
The EL/M-2022ES will be able to detect and track up to 1,000 targets, he adds.
ÂWe detect things like a periscope at 1m2 [1,550in2] at around 30nm [56km],Â Licht says. ÂLarger targets we can see to the horizon or 100nm.Â
Elta is currently adapting the software for the EL/M-2022ES, which will begin test flights in the second half of 2014. Deliveries should begin in 2015 or 2016, Licht says.
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