A new addition to Saab’s Arexis electronic warfare product line provides added protection for Gripen.
For Saab the Arexis airborne Electronic Warfare (EW) architecture is a gift that keeps on giving. The firm launched the Arexis product line in 2017 at the Defence and Security International Exhibition in London.
Saab’s endeavours have produced a scalable EW system which can be mounted internally or externally. The Arexis architecture is evolved from Saab’s MFS-EW (Multifunction System-Electronic Warfare). This internally equips Saab’s Gripen-E/F combat aircraft. The firm has housed Arexis in a podded configuration. This can outfit Gripen-E/F aircraft or other fast jets.
The Arexis’ family’s newest arrival is an air-launched EW decoy. Announced in late August Saab says it is developing the decoy as part of its Gripen -E/F offering for the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force/FAF) HX fighter programme. This is replacing the FAF’s legacy McDonnell Douglas/Boeing F/A-18C/D Hornet planes.
Saab has not revealed the frequencies covered by Arexis. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to assume it covers wavebands of at least two gigahertz/GHz to 18GHz. This may have been increased downwards and upwards to 500 megahertz and 40GHz. Arexis uses Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology. This lets jamming signals be electronically steered towards the threat, thus decreasing reaction times when compared to physically steering an antenna. Jamming waveforms can be transmitted into the sidelobes flanking a radar’s main beam. The aircraft can attack the radar without being in its boresight reducing its chances of detection. AESAs can also quickly flip between jamming modes and targets.
Petter Bedoire, Saab’s chief technology officer, told Armada that the firm has miniaturised the Arexis hardware and will use the same Arexis software. Like its pod counterpart, it can equip jets beyond Saab’s Gripen series “with some small modifications regarding interfacing with the host aircraft” Mr. Bedoire adds.
Concept of Operations
The decoy and pod will perform different, but complementary missions. The pod is optimised as an escort jammer. It can protect a strike package of four-to-five jets as well as individual aircraft. Mr. Bedoire says that the pod is designed for the two-seat Gripen-F with the weapons systems officer managing it.
The decoy has been designed as a stand-in jammer for contested airspace. Several decoys can be launched to jam ground-based air surveillance and fire control/ground-controlled interception radars across a large area. Mr Bedoire says that the decoys can also be used to mimic missiles to further confuse air defenders.
Saab is involving Finnish electronics miniaturisation expertise in the decoy’s development. Mr. Bedoire says the decoy’s payload is currently at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Six. According to standard definitions this means the payload has been demonstrated in a relevant environment. He added that the missile platform housing the payload is at TRL-7. This means that it has been demonstrated in an operational environment.
Citing HX programme confidentiality obligations Mr. Bedoire could not say when the decoy’s development will be complete.