German Eurofighter EK to be Fitted with Saab’s Arexis for Advanced Electronic Warfare Operations

Germany has chosen to outfit fifteen of its Eurofighter aircraft with Saab's cutting-edge Arexis electronic warfare technology, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect, identify, and defeat radar threats. The Arexis package will greatly improve the German Air Force's electronic warfare and suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) operations by merging state-of-the-art sensors with AI capabilities from Helsing.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The German government’s decision to purchase thirty-five F-35A fighter bombers from Lockheed-Martin will benefit Airbus, too, because it was followed by an order for fifteen Eurofighter EF-2000 EK (Elektronischer Kampf ) fighter aircraft equipped with SEAD capability.

As a reminder, Berlin’s initial plans were to purchase thirty F/A-18 Super Hornets and fifteen E/A-18G Growlers to replace the Luftwaffe’s Panavia Tornados used for NATO nuclear sharing and electronic warfare operations.

In November, the German parliament approved a budget of 384 million euros to upgrade fifteen Eurofighters to the “EK” standard. A few months ago, the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology, and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) stated that these aircraft would be outfitted with the Arexis electronic warfare suite produced by the Swedish company Saab rather than the option provided by HENSOLDT.

However, the contract’s conditions still need to be agreed upon. This is now completed. Saab, the Swedish company, stated in a news release on March 25 that it had received an order from Airbus to equip fifteen German Air Force Eurofighters for electronic warfare operations, including the Arexis system.

According to Saab’s CEO Micael Johansson, our Arexis sensor suite will enhance German defense with electronic warfare capabilities that are future-proof for decades by combining advanced equipment and AI-based software.

For this deal, Saab collaborated with Helsing, an artificial intelligence specialist focused on military applications. Thus, Arexis will allow for the detection, localization, and identification of radar emitters in complex and cluttered electromagnetic settings, says Micael Johansson.

The AI contribution will primarily try to analyze radar data and select the most relevant self-protection mechanisms to be implemented more quickly.

The Luftwaffe’s EF-2000EK will employ the Arexis system, which includes the AGM-88E2 Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) manufactured by Northrop Grumman.

Eurofighter EK Infographic
Eurofighter EK Infographic. Image: Airbus

The AREXIS System

The Arexis system is an Electronic Warfare (EW) suite developed by Saab, a Swedish defense and security company. It’s designed to give aircraft a significant edge in complex electromagnetic environments. The Arexis series of electronic warfare devices is already operating aboard the Gripen E fighter aircraft.

Function: Arexis detects, locates, and identifies radar signals using advanced sensors, including gallium nitride Active Electronically Scanned Arrays (AESAs). 

Modular Design: A key feature of Arexis is its modularity. This allows for flexible integration on various platforms – directly on an aircraft, in a mission pod, or even as a payload on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as described on Saab’s product page.

AI-Powered Operations: Saab incorporates AI from its partner Helsing to automate many tasks, minimizing the crew’s workload while ensuring optimal performance. This frees up the pilot to focus on other critical aspects of the mission. Airbus has greenlit Saab to put the Arexis sensor suite with its AI platform on German Eurofighters.

Defense and Offense: Arexis offers both defensive and offensive capabilities. According to Saab’s product page, it can deploy countermeasures to deceive threats and protect high-value assets using its air-launched decoy system (SPEAR-EW).

Saab Arexis system, the Rafale’s SPECTRA, and the F-18 Growler’s electronic warfare capabilities

Saab’s Arexis is a pod designed for multiple platforms, including fixed wings and UAVs. It uses gallium nitride active electronically scanned arrays to detect, localize, and identify radar threats. The modular architecture enables customizable integration as a pod, payload, or direct installation. Helsing has automated numerous functions with AI, lowering crew workload. Arexis can also use active countermeasures, such as the SPEAR-EW decoy missile. 

The Thales SPECTRA system on the Rafale fighter provides similar electronic warfare capabilities. It combines radar warning, electronic intelligence, and self-protection using various sensors and jamming techniques. SPECTRA automatically prioritizes threats and chooses the best counterattack sequence. 

The E/A-18G, primarily an electronic attack aircraft, combines the best of both worlds with Raytheon’s ALQ-218 electronic warfare system. It uses modern electronically scanned arrays, clever algorithms, and integrated countermeasures to detect, jam, and fool opposing radars and communications systems. The ALQ-218 system’s specifics are classified. However, it is most likely made up of radar warning receivers, jammers, and missile warning systems.

Both the Spectra and ALQ-218 systems are mainly internal, located within the aircraft itself.

Eurofighter DASS 

A standard feature of the base Eurofighter Typhoon is the Defensive Aids Subsystem (DASS), which offers some protection against electronic warfare. 

Radar warning receivers (RWR) are used in the Euro Fighter’s DASS to identify potential radar threats. Additionally, chaff and flare dispensers are used to divert and deceive radar-guided missiles, and electronic countermeasures and jamming capabilities are employed to neutralize and interfere with enemy radar systems, though the precise nature of these jamming technologies is probably going to be kept under wraps.


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