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Today, Saab rolled out the first GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft to the media at its Linköping site, Sweden, after having presented it to the actual customer alongside potential buyers yesterday.

GlobalEye is an advanced, swing role airborne surveillance system based on a GLOBAL 6000 jet aircraft from Bombardier, which has undergone a thorough modification programme to adapt it for its role. The rollout marks a significant milestone on the programme, according to Saab.

Saab is currently producing the GlobalEye AEW&C, combining air, maritime and ground surveillance in one single solution via Leonardo's SEASPRAY maritime surveillance radar and powerful new extended range radar (ERIEYE ER), combined in a full suite of sophisticated sensors. This new multisensor suite covers all three domains (air, land and sea) seamlessly for multirole operations, while the ERIEYE ER covers 70% more vector range to the previous version, via GaN technology. "A new active electronically scanned array (AESA) S-Band radar provides extended range coverage," a company executive said at the event.

Housed in the same dorsal plank fairing (provided by Patria) as the previous generation ERIEYE, the ERIEYE ER's S-Band system is in the 2-4GHz range. The antenna's TRM modules are Ram-air cooled and it weighs approx. 1,000 kilogrammes.

Integraging Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) into the wings, the aircraft features Beyond Line of Sight communications via satellite communications (SATCOM) and in the high frequency (HF) range of 1.6-30MHz, voice and data.

Not confirmed by Saab, the aircraft presented showcased a FLIR SYSTEMS STAR SAFIRE 380 HD EO/IR system, alongside undisclosed IFF/ADS-B and data link suites. The company did not disclose any further deatils on data transmissions, frequencies, waveforms, data links or network infrastructures, due to customer requirements.

Leonardo's SEASPRAY will allow GlobalEye to conduct surveillance using a variety of advanced modes, enhancing the platform’s ability to detect targets, and being an AESA radar, a matrix of miniature radar modules are used to steer the beam electronically, instead of the radar physically pointing its antenna at a target. The radar os ae to perform multiple tasks simultaneously, e.g. carrying out maritime surveillance while at the same time monitoring the weather on the aircraft’s flight path.

This first aircraft is equipped and being prepared for ground and flight trials to gather aerodynamic data as part of the ongoing development and production programme.

The development and production contract was awarded at the Dubai Air Show in November 2015 by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with an initial order for two systems. An additional order by the UAE for a third system was announced in 2017. The GlobalEye solution brings extended detection range, endurance and the ability to perform multiple roles with one solution, including tasks such as search and rescue (SAR), border surveillance and military operations. "We see this aircraft as a stron force multiplier," UAE Chief of Air Force, Major General (P) Ibrahim Naser Al Alawi, said in a video statement shown to the press. "Our future requirements will need AEW also capable of detecting ballistic missiles. This aircrafy saves us cost and manpower."

Being in discussions with Bombardier on how to shorten delivery time of GLOBAL 6000 aircraft, a Saab official explained at the event, "we hope that Sweden will buy this. We are also looking at the Asian and Latin American markets alongside Europe. The NATO fleet also needs to be renewed and Canada have stopped working on AWACS and are looking at a new solution."

As NATO in the 2035 timeframe will be looking for a successor to the Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, Saab is in early stages of discussions with the alliance. Having already sold its ERIEYE system to Greece, which will be integrated into NATO's air defence system, the company sees GlobalEye going that way as well.

"Having the best AEW radar in the world at the moment, this multi-mission aircraft reclaims distance amd long endurance and is a gap filler for surface radars, AEW and mobility," a company executive concluded.

Saab rolled out the first GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft to the media. (Photo: DPM)

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