How Gripen E’s AESA Radar Gets a Large Field of View
What looks like a rotating plate, mounts Gripen E's fixed AESA radar and gives it an extra field of view? It is the rotating repositioner or the swashplate. In a report that details out the various capabilities of the Gripen E fighter, Jamie Hunter from The Drive talks about the importance of this swashplate.
The swashplate allows the fixed AESA antenna to be slewed left or to the right and get a better view of the battlefield. Saab test pilot, Robin Nordlander explains its workings on Gripen. “The swashplate makes it possible to have a 140-degree search volume within a 200-degree look-angle around the nose of the aircraft,” he says. “As well as scanning directly ahead, the swashplate allows the aircraft to scan further to the left and right, in fact, you can actually look aft left or aft right with the radar. This is a huge benefit during BVR [Beyond Visual Range] engagements or in a GBAD [Ground-Based Air Defense] environment when you don’t want to point the aircraft directly into a specific area,” he adds.
An important use case for the AESA swashplate is when the pilot doesn't want to point the aircraft in one direction. The extra range of the AESA gives the pilot an ability to look at a target without actually pointing at it. This also minimizes the possibility of an opponent to launch a missile toward the aircraft. "If I am defensive and just looking into an area, I can turn away or remove my velocity from that area, and still scan it. If I am offensive and want to make a long-range missile shot against a target, I don’t have to close on the opponent after my shot and give them the possibility to launch [a missile] against me," explains Norlander.
The swashplate allows the pilot to take a beyond-visual-range missile shot and then turn 90 degrees while still giving mid-course updates to the missile fired. This is a great tactical advantage to have, especially when paired with the Meteor. The pilot can not only change the course of the missile mid-way, but also maintain maximum situational awareness while employing this tactic.
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