Saab has been at the forefront of airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) technology for more than two decades, having revolutionised the marketplace with its low-drag, small-size phased-array Erieye radar system. Now Saab has leveraged the capabilities of the latest iteration of the Erieye, and the company’s core competencies in the electronics and communications fields, to take the concept of airborne sensor platforms into a new realm.
Known as the GlobalEye swingrole surveillance system (SRSS), the new offering moves away from a traditional single-mission AEW&C tasking by adding further sensors that permit the platform to undertake a much broader range of missions, including those with civilian and emergency applications.
GlobalEye is based on the Bombardier Global 6000 platform, the large business jet offering an ideal mix of very long endurance, a high dash speed, a capacious cabin and the ability to operate at high altitudes. At the heart of GlobalEye is a mission system that can be used in conjunction with a range of sensors, providing data fusion and controlled by common operator consoles – typically five. A range of communication systems is provided so that the GlobalEye is fully connected to other platforms and command centres.
In terms of sensors, the principal item is the new Erieye ER radar, which employs gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor technology to enhance its effectiveness over earlier generations by at least 50 per cent. A key driver behind the development of Erieye ER was the desire to “claim back the detection gap” as targets get increasingly smaller and stealthier. That implies more power, but typically more power requires a larger radar, which in turn means more weight and more cost. GaN technology has allowed Saab to add the required power without change to the radar’s form, as well as keeping costs down.
In the full-spec GlobalEye SRSS the aircraft also carries a Leonardo Seaspray 7500E AESA maritime radar, which also has overland synthetic aperture/moving target capability.
A FLIR Systems Star Safire 380HD electro-optic turret is installed, and the aircraft has a sensitive electronic support measures (ESM) system for passive detection. IFF and its maritime equivalent, AIS, are also incorporated.
These sensors provide the GlobalEye with an unparalleled flexibility to perform many missions.
During day-to-day AEW operations the platform can simultaneously carry out maritime or border surveillance duties, removing the need for a separate maritime or border patrol platform. If, for instance, a suspect vessel is detected, the GlobalEye mission commander can order the aircraft down to take a closer look with its electro-optical sensor, or alert and direct other maritime assets.
While the GlobalEye is superbly equipped for a wartime situation, the system’s inherent flexibility maximises the value of regular peacetime operations, enabling the platform to watch oceans and land borders while at the same time maintaining the recognised air picture in its AEW role.
First customer for the GlobalEye is the UAE, which has ordered two aircraft in full SRSS specification. These are currently being fitted out.
At the same time, the UAE has opted to update its two existing Saab 340 AEW aircraft with the Erieye ER radar.
Owing to the flexibility of the system and the modularity of its architecture, the GlobalEye system can be tailored to meet varying customer demands.