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Saab delivered the first GlobalEye Swing Role Surveillance System aircraft to the UAE on 29 April. The Gulf nation has ordered three GlobalEye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, the initial contract having been signed in late 2015. In November last year, the country also announced its intention to procure an additional two systems.

GlobalEye is Saab’s new AEW&C solution. It provides air, maritime and ground surveillance in a single solution. GlobalEye combines Saab’s new ERIEYE Extended Range Radar and a range of additional advanced sensors with the ultra-long range Global 6000 aircraft from Bombardier.

The delivery of the first GlobalEye is a major milestone for Saab, but also an important step in the history of airborne early warning and control. We have set a new standard for the market and […] we have delivered the most advanced airborne surveillance solution in the world to the United Arab Emirates”, says Micael Johansson, President and CEO of Saab.

During a media phone briefing to announce the delivery, Johansson declined to provide much detail but was clear in his messaging that the programme is on time – despite the issues and barriers raised by COVID-19 – and that the first delivery was made in four and a half years from contract award: that a comprehensive ground segment – infrastructure and equipment, including mission simulation capabilities – has been delivered in-country; and that training of UAE systems operators and pilots has already taken place in Sweden.

It is unclear whether the two additional aircraft currently under negotiation will also be based on the Bombardier GLOBAL 6000 platform or whether the GLOBAL 6500 offers sufficient benefits to overcome the penalties of operating a mixed fleet. Much will depend, it can be assumed with some degree of certainty, on UAE operator experience over the coming months as the first aircraft goes through its acceptance trials and certification process. Johansson pointed out that, although the later aircraft is definitely a significantly different aircraft, “to take [GlobalEye] to the 6500 would not be a major effort: we have investigated and it would be an incremental effort – not a problem.”

The next two aircraft are approaching the delivery phase in the near future – though Johansson would not be drawn on an exact timing, just saying “it’s a short period – certainly not years.” As to the next steps for GlobalEye after the UAE deliveries are completed, he is quietly bullish tough reluctant to reveal many details. The Finnish programme is “obviously of great interest and we have had very interesting conversations with the South Koreans – as well as a couple of others,” he told journalists.

The UAE’s first GLOBAL 6000-based GlobalEye AEW&C platform in flight in Sweden prior to its delivery flight to Abu Dhabi, where it arrived on the morning of 29 April. (Photo: Saab)

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