Saab unveils GlobalEye

Photo: The new UAEAF GlobalEye, unveiled today. Jamie Hunter


Saab unveiled its new GlobalEye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) ‘swing-role surveillance’ aircraft today at its Linköping manufacturing facility in Sweden. The United Arab Emirates Air Force has ordered three GlobalEyes, based on the Bombardier Global 6000 airframe. Orders for the first two were announced at the Dubai Airshow in 2015 and a third was announced at IDEX early last year.

The GlobalEye features the new Erieye ER (Extended Range) active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar in a ‘balance beam’ fairing atop the fuselage, which Saab says offers a 70 per cent improvement in range performance when compared to its predecessor. The aircraft also features the Leonardo Seaspray 7500E X-band maritime search radar and a FLIR Systems electro-optical turret below the nose.

The GlobalEye has an 11hr+ endurance — crew comfort and overall performance mean the airframe is ‘ideally suited for special mission specifications’, according to Saab. The cabin has five operator workstations plus a rest area with four seats, and can also be configured for remote operation and mission support from a ground station. The airborne operator complement is intended to be flexible, based on air force needs, up to a maximum of nine. The flight crew comprises two pilots.

The GlobalEye won’t be the UAE’s first AEW&C platform: as an interim solution, it signed a contract in November 2009 for two former Swedish Air Force Saab 340AEW&C (S 100B Argus) aircraft with the original Erieye radar. Deliveries took place in August 2010 and April 2011.

It’s noteworthy that Saab has turned to international funding for the new platform, with no current domestic commitment, although that might change once the Swedish Armed Forces publish their long-term defense plan for the years up to 2035. However, Saab officials are already aiming GlobalEye as a successor to the NATO E-3A fleet by 2035. ‘We are having dialogues and they are really impressed by the radar’, a company official confirmed.

In terms of the potential of GlobalEye as a NATO AWACS successor, Saab points to the successful integration of the Erieye system with the alliance by the Hellenic Air Force. The HAF uses the radar on the Embraer EMB-145H platform, in service since 2004.

All three UAE GlobalEye aircraft are now at Linköping in different states of conversion and mission system integration, having arrived as ‘green’ airframes delivered by Bombardier.

First flight and delivery schedule are ‘sensitive information’, say Saab, and the company wouldn’t comment on them. However, the first aircraft is now in its final configuration and will now commence ground tests before a flight evaluation campaign, expected to begin later this year.

Chief of the UAE Air Force Vice Marshal Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed Al Alawi describes the GlobalEye as a ‘strong force multiplier’, and says it will be used as part of a multi-domain surveillance system that will offer an anti-ballistic missile capability. A Saab official confirmed the GlobalEye’s ability to detect ballistic missile launches, but it’s unclear at what range this would be possible.

Meanwhile, the future of the UAE Air Force’s existing two Saab 340AEW&C aircraft is unclear; it is possible they could be upgraded to GlobalEye configuration, or they may be returned to Sweden as part payment for the new GlobalEyes. Saab confirmed that the weight and power requirements of the Erieye ER system are designed to be the same as those for the original Erieye radar.

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