Saab Begins Flight Testing for new X-band AESA radar

Gripen taking-off to conduct first X-band AESA radar trial on 8 April.

On Wednesday 8 April Saab conducted the first air trial of its new fighter X-band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.

During a 90 minute flight conducted from Saab’s Linköping facility it successfully detected “targets of opportunity” having been mounted on a Gripen D fighter. More trials are planned over the coming months.

The radar is suitable for the upgrade market and particularly existing operators of current versions of the Gripen fighter, which usually feature the PS-05/A Mk 4 radar, as well as other in-service 4th Generation legacy fighters and high end training jets without an AESA radar.

AESA radar

Anders Carp, senior VP and head of Saab’s Surveillance business, speaking to the media on Friday 24 April said of expected sales of the new radar (as yet unnamed): “The market is there given several generations of fighters that need to be upgraded.” Nations already operating Gripen C/D fighters that might be interested in this upgraded capability include South Africa, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Thailand.

The AESA radar incorporates Gallium nitride (GaN) which is a useful material to use in applications including optoelectronic, high-power and high-frequency devices as it allows lower power consumption and better heat resistance.

Saab X-band AESA fighter radar.

In the Gripen it is housed at the front of Saab’s existing PS-05/A assembly in a fixed position, rather than using a repositioner which would have required more space to operate.

The new radar is a development on Saab’s PS-05/A radar that was rolled out for the JAS39 Gripen in 1992. it will provide an in-house alternative to the Leonardo/Selex Raven ES-05 AESA radar.

UAV Suitable?

When asked whether the radar might be suitable for larger unmanned aerial vehicles either current or planned, Carp stated: “unmanned is a very interesting arena for us in that we have tried to do things cost effectively and this would be a cost effective capability.”

A statement from Saab indicated that the radar will have an increased performance against smaller targets and “enhanced its Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM) capability.”

The radar is ITAR free and according to Carp will soon be ready to go into production once the flight test data generated over the coming months is analysed and the software finalised.

Saab received its first order from an undisclosed US Government customer back in 2018.

by Andrew Drwiega