HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesEuropean airborne electronic-attack program kicks into high gear

European airborne electronic-attack program kicks into high gear


STUTTGART, Germany — An Indra-led consortium of European companies is set to launch work on an electronic-warfare capability for the European Union aimed at protecting friendly aircraft against missile attacks.

In a few months, the bloc’s Responsive Electronic Attack for Cooperative Tasks (REACT) effort will begin its second phase, company officials told Defense News. The consortium, which includes European sensor makers Hensoldt, Elettronica and Saab, was selected in June to receive tens of millions of euros in funds from the European Defence Fund (EDF) for the work.

The REACT program is intended to develop a system capable of jamming any signals used for targeting European aircraft while being able to disable adversary electronic-warfare emitters, according to a European Defence Fund fact sheet. As European forces are facing increasingly sophisticated long-range, integrated air defense systems, airborne electronic attack (AEA) capabilities become “essential to create safe bubbles around formations of aircraft,” said Pablo González, director for NATO and European defense and space programs at Indra.

Going forward, Indra has progress and lessons from the initiative’s first phase to build on, González wrote in a Sept. 7 email to Defense News. The company and its consortium was awarded a grant for REACT I in 2019 under the EDF’s predecessor, the European Defence Industrial Development Programme. The project is linked to a similar Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) initiative focused on airborne electronic attack, a connection that translates into extra subsidies from Brussels.

Indra is also one of three prime contractors on the trinational Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program, representing Spanish industry as well as serving as lead contractor for the program’s sensors portfolio. Indra did not respond to questions regarding any commonality between the work on REACT and its work on FCAS by this article’s publication.

The FCAS program – which also includes France and Germany – launched its Phase 1B technological demonstration phase in December 2022, which will go on until 2029 when a prototype demonstrator is expected to see the light of day. Indra is slated to receive €600 million ($640 million) for its work during Phase 1B, the company previously shared.

During REACT I, the industry partners developed operational scenarios and studied the potential threats a new AEA system may need to face in the next 15-20 years, said Raúl Pajarín, director of airborne platforms systems at Indra. Those efforts generated an architecture, specification and preliminary design of the AEA capabilities, he told Defense News.

Indra expects that REACT II will officially start at the end of 2023, once the grant agreement is signed with the European Commission, per Pajarín. The main milestone to achieve is the demonstration of the AEA capabilities by way of testing of different prototypes generated during the project.

“In the meantime, the industrial consortium is planning all the activities and resources needed for the future execution of the project,” he said.

In addition to covering the swath of capabilities set out in the EDF report, the consortium hopes to develop a modular, reconfigurable architecture-based system, Pajarín noted. During REACT II, the plan is also to consolidate a European-wide definition and digitalization of electronic attack missions, and to set a base scenario for coordinating the missions between different assets and nations, he said.

The program is expected to take four years and cost around €69.7 million, including a maximum of €40 million in EU contributions. It will encompass studies, design, prototyping, testing, and qualification of the new capability. The international program management group Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) will manage the program on behalf of the participating nations.

REACT II is financed through the European Defence Fund along with the ministries of defense of Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Poland, González said. Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, France, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Poland are also providing industrial participation and support.

The following companies are participating in the REACT II project:

From Spain: Indra, the Technical University of Madrid, AXTER Aerospace, Spika Tech, and Gaerum Engineering; from Italy: Elettronica, the National Laboratory of Radar and Surveillance Systems and Systems and Energy Technologies (SENTECH); from Germany: Hensoldt; from Sweden: Saab and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology; from France: Thales; from Poland: the Warsaw University of Technology and XY Sensing; from Bulgaria: Bianor Software and IT Services; from the Netherlands: the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR); from Estonia: Rantelon and CAFA Tech Robotics; from Lithuania: the Baltic Institute of Advanced Technology; and from Finland: DA-Group.

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News’ European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards’ best young defense journalist in 2020.

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