The German parliament’s defense committee is planning to sign the first contract in relation to the EK/ECR Eurofighter project on November 15th. The agreement will cover project support, funds for risk mitigation and development. Initial plans call for 15 aircraft out of the Luftwaffe’s Eurofighter fleet to be modified for the Escort Jamming role.
The EK Eurofighter is planned to replace the ageing ECR Tornado in the role of Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD). The Luftwaffe has a requirement for a total of 30 ECR/EK aircraft.
This development follows a longer period of evaluation and assessment carried out by the German procurement authorities (BAAINBw). The BAAINBw selected the joint bid made by Saab & Helsing, which offered a modified version of Saab’s Integrated Electronic Warfare System (IEWS), citing low integration risk as one of the criteria. The IEWS will likely be integrated by a modification of the existing Defensive Aids Sub-System (DASS) suite of the Eurofighter, replacing some of the equipment in the aircraft’s wingtips and fuselage. The updated Emitter Location System of the IEWS and the integration of of Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles (AARGM) will be realized by 2028, as a first step capability as part of the Phase 4 enhancement (P4E) project of the Eurofighter consortium.
The German Airforce also plans to integrate AARGM’s Extended Range variant, to increase the engagement envelope against long range air defense systems. This will be realized in a second step, together with other enhancements such as upgrades to the German Eurofighter’s ECRS Mk1 radar and the integration of an external jamming pod.
The Luftwaffe has also closely evaluated the MBDA SPEAR 3 and more specifically it’s electronic warfare (EW) variant, however the development and fielding schedule of the product was deemed to be unacceptable for a timely introduction.
Having started in 2019, the procurement effort (dubbed luWES) includes a variety of ideas and proposals. In the early phases luWES planned with a larger capability set, such as Stand-off Jamming (SOJ) systems onboard the A400M transport aircraft. For a proposed Stand-In Jamming (SIJ) role the German Airforce plans with new electronic combat wingman aircraft, which seem to be modified Remote Carrier unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from plans of the trinational FCAS project.
However a lack of funding has put the realization of the SOJ and SIJ components before 2030 into doubt. A clear path for development will only be made possible if the NATO spending quota of 2% of national GDP will be met in the following years, which so far has not been reliably backed by long-term federal budget plans.