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AESA radar- the future of Air Defence

The RAFALE AESA radar is the most advanced fighter radar in its category.

The AESA (active electronically scanned array) brings superior detection and tracking range, electronic scanning agility and the ability to track targets in or out of the search domain, and very high resolution ground mapping with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modes.

The RAFALE AESA radar also allows very low altitude flying above uncharted terrain in autopilot-coupled modes in blind conditions.

Electronically scanned array radars which are designed to track all groups of targets, can “track while search” (tracking is performed at an optimised update rate and even outside of the search volume), when mechanically scanned array radars can only track some targets inside the search volume and update them at the scanning rate.

The RAFALE is the first operational - and so far, the only - European combat Aircraft to use an electronic scanning radar. Developed by THALES, the RBE2 radar has benefited from a massive research effort and from THALES’ unmatched know-how based on past experience. Compared to radars with conventional antennas, unprecedented levels of situational awareness are attained with earlier detection and tracking of multiple targets.

With its superior beam agility and its enormous computing power, the RBE2 offers outstanding performance that cannot be replicated by mechanical scanning radars.

With the advent of “Tranche 4”, Aircraft which are due to enter service in 2013, the RAFALE fighters will be fitted with an “Active Electronically Scanned Array” (AESA) RBE2 radar which will provide a wide range of functions:

  • All-aspect look-up and look-down detection and tracking of multiple air targets for close combat and long-range interception, in all weather and in jammed environment,
  • Ability to track targets in, or out of, the search domain, bringing the ultimate advantage in air combat,
  • Real time generation of three-dimensional maps for terrain-following above uncharted terrain in blind conditions. The RAFALE is the sole combat Aircraft to currently propose such a function,
  • Real time generation of high resolution 2D ground maps for navigation updates and detection, identification and designation of ground targets,
  • Detection and tracking of multiple naval targets.


The RBE2-AESA is fully compatible in terms of detection range with the upcoming long range METEOR air-to-air missile.

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