First radar that equips the Rafale as standard and developed by the Thomson-CSF group [devenu depuis Thales] based on a technology developed in the 1970s by the Radant company, the RBE2 [Radar à Balayage Électronique 2 plans] with passive antenna [PESA] was one of the most advanced of its time, not only because, unlike its predecessors, it combined air-to-air detection with terrain following functions, but also because of its performance, thanks to its computers capable of performing up to one billion operations per second, thus allowing the pursuit of forty targets and attacking eight of them simultaneously.
Then, the RBE2 evolved thanks to the contribution of active antennas [AESA, pour Active Electronically Scanned Array]. Without going into too many technical details, a radar of this type integrates thousands of sensors called TRM [Transmitter Receiver Module / modules émetteurs-récepteurs]that reinforce both its reliability [grâce à la redondance de ces derniers] and its performance given that it is more difficult to detect and less vulnerable to electronic interference, as well as having a greater detection range, even for targets with a reduced radar signature.
Indeed, according to the description made by Thales, the RBE2 AESA, put into service in 2012, can simultaneously detect and pursue “a large number of aerial targets, upwards or downwards, for close combat and long-range interception.” distance from many land or sea targets. objectives, in clear or cloudy environments and in all climates. In addition, it allows the creation, in real time, of 3D maps for terrain following and “high resolution 2D radar maps of the terrain flown over for navigation and target designation”. And with the long-range METEOR air-to-air missile, thanks to its extended detection capability, it allows the Rafale to engage targets beyond visual range. [BVR].
However, the RBE2 AESA will obviously have a successor. And it is that, as the specialized magazine Air Fan pointed out, in its latest issue dedicated to the Rafale F4, the General Directorate of Armament [DGA] is working on it, through the scientific-technical project [PST] “TARAMMAA”, for Active Antenna Multichannel MLU Radar Technologies and Architecture, released as a continuation of upstream study programs [PEA] FACE [Capacités accrues pour le radar RBE2 à antenne active] and MELBAA [Modes et exploitation large bande pour l’antenne active].
This TARAMMAA project is particularly interested in improving the performance of transceiver modules, as well as new software and hardware architecture. Director of the Rafale program within the DGA, the general engineer of armament [IGA] Guilhem Reboul explains that the idea is to ensure that “part of the processing is done directly on the antenna itself and no longer on dedicated computers.”
“It’s very innovative,” he says. And to specify: “The gallium nitride technology [GaN] it will be favored for antenna modules to enable new functions such as interleaving of air-to-air and air-to-ground modes. Combined with enhanced processing capabilities thanks to increasingly efficient algorithms and computing resources, these modules will guarantee remarkable detection ranges and high resistance to interference”, in connection with the PST “Aero Electronic Warfare 2025, which is preparing the Rafale F4 updates and… Rafale F5 .
Hence, moreover, the priority given by the DGA to the establishment of a French gallium nitride sector, within the framework of the NIGAMIL programme. [pour « NItrure de Gallium pour applications MILlimétriques »]. In fact, this material is used in particular for the manufacture of high-performance integrated circuits that work up to 100 GHz, which would make it possible to significantly improve the power level, the efficiency and, therefore, the compactness of radar systems, active or electronic antennas. war systems.
In the meantime, Air Fan explains, the Rafale F4.1, under development, will have an RBE2 AESA radar equipped with a GMTI mode [Ground Moving Target Indicator] to detect and track ground targets [les essais de celui-ci sont d’ailleurs terminés] as well as a SAR mode [radar à synthèse d’ouverture] enhanced for the production of very high resolution radar ground maps. “For aircrews, these developments will be a dramatic operational breakthrough.”
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