Thales has developed the AESA RBE2, a very high-performance radar that has been specifically designed for the omnirole Rafale fighter. It has been developed in close collaboration with Dassault Aviation and DGA -a French defense procurement agency to meet the expectations of Air Forces by combining advanced fire control radar detection and target tracking needs thanks to innovative technologies.
In radars, an antenna is said to be active when it has a single subassembly for amplification of radiated power and pre-amplification of received power. This is achieved by the antenna front end, which comprises of an array of several hundred transmit/receive modules (T/R modules). By controlling each T/R module individually, the active antenna can steer the radar beam at the speeds of an electronic chip. This is called «electronic scanning in space» and effectively allows the radar to overcome the mechanical constraints of steering a single antenna. It also allows the radar to track multiple targets simultaneously in all directions. The active antenna thus replaces the conventional antenna and its mechanical steering system, along with the radar transmitter and the first stage of signal reception.
Capitalizing on Thales’s expertise from previous fighter radars for over 50 years, the RBE2 offers many advantages to the Rafale. Compared to radars with conventional antennas, the RBE2 provides unprecedented levels of situational awareness, with earlier detection and tracking of multiple targets as well as the capability of using several radar modes at the same time:
- All-aspect look-down/look-up detection and tracking of multiple air targets for close combat and long-range interception of multiple sea or ground targets in a jammed environment in all weather.
- Real-time generation of three-dimensional maps for terrain-following.
- Real-time generation of high-resolution ground maps for navigation and targeting.
Furthermore, the AESA RBE2 brings the Rafale several other key operational benefits:
- Extended range capabilities supporting low-observable target detection and full use of new weapon systems such as the Meteor Air-to-Air missile.
- Higher reliability for reduced maintenance and lower through-life support costs.
- Greater waveform agility for SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) imaging and improved resistance to jamming.
Dedicated to the Rafale, the RBE2 is Europe’s first-ever AESA radar delivered to Forces. It is combat-proven onboard the Rafale for the French Air Forces. It also equips the Rafale for Egyptian, Indian and Qatari Air Forces.
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