Sweden’s Saab defense group brought its Globaleye aircraft for the first time at the 2019 Dubai Air Show in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
To truly ensure territorial integrity and security in today’s complex environments, airborne surveillance is crucial. Beyond the framework of a conventional early warning aircraft, GlobalEye, the world’s most advanced early warning aircraft, made its first flight in March 2018. During May 2019, Saab stated that it was nearing the end of the flight testing phase relating to certification.
Saab claims that GlobalEye offers a full range of Airborne early warning and control solutions with extended range coupled with the ability to detect low-observable air, sea and ground objects. It combines a powerful new extended range radar with the ultra-long range Global 6000 jet aircraft from Bombardier. A solution that maximizes operational performance, both in terms of detection capability and mission endurance, while at the same time offering outstanding crew comfort.
Globaleye is a new multi-role airborne surveillance system developed by Saab. As mentioned above, the aircraft’s design is based on the Bombardier Global 6000 body frame, so it retains most of the form and function of the Global 6000 with key physical additions being the various antenna and sensor protrusions along the dorsal spine as well as the abdomen of the plane. The cockpit is positioned at the front of the aircraft in the usual way, its cabin houses ergonomic sideway seating for operators and offers low noise level and pressure altitude.
It also accommodates six-seat rest area for passengers. The aircraft has a length of 30.3m, wing span of 28.7m and wing area of 94.8 square meters. The wing mainplanes are sweptback and low-mounted along the sides of the fuselage while being capped by fuel-efficient winglets common to many commercial platforms today. The tail unit has a single vertical fin with a T-style arranged horizontal plane. These planes also have smaller vertical elements set over and under them as well.
The aircraft is equipped with two Rolls-Royce BR710 A2-20 turbofan engines, are set outboard of the aft section of the fuselage, developing 14,750lb of thrust each. The maximum speed is 581 miles per hour, the service ceiling reaches 51000 feet and the operating range is 6900 miles. The maximum take-off weight of the aircraft is 45,132kg.
The primary sensor of the GlobalEye is its Erieye ER airborne early warning radar; weighing approximately 1 tonne, it is mounted atop the twinjet’s fuselage. Saab has cited up to 216 nautical mile range for the Airborne Early Warning radar system when flown at an operating altitude of 30,000ft; in comparison with earlier versions of the Erieye radar, Saab claims it has achieved a 70% increase in detection range, achieved via the use of new technology, such as gallium-nitride transmit or receive modules.
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According to Saab Group, with highly increased detection range and over 11 hours of operational endurance, GlobalEye is perfectly suited to fulfil the most demanding operational requirements. Particularly since it has the ability to detect low-observable air targets in heavy clutter and jamming conditions and also can detect and track maritime targets out to the elevated horizon and small jet-ski or Rigid-inflatable boat sized vessels at very long distances.
In addition to the Airborne Early Warning radar, the GlobalEye is equipped with various additional sensors. These include the Seaspray 7500E maritime surveillance radar, provided by Italian defence conglomerate Leonardo; the Seaspray radar features synthetic-aperture radar and ground-oriented moving target indication modes. The GlobalEye also has an electro-optical and infrared sensor, which is situated underneath the forward fuselage.
Other mission equipment includes data links, voice and satellite communications and a command and control suite, the latter comprising five onboard operator stations. The GlobalEye can be operated without any onboard operators, instead streaming its surveillance output to ground-based stations instead. According to Saab, the GlobalEye can simultaneously perform airborne, maritime and ground surveillance duties. It has been offered with three layers of capability: the baseline Active electronically scanned array and C2 system for air, land and sea surveillance, along with some electronic intelligence functions; an version with additional infrared and sea-search functionality; and one with a dedicated signals intelligence system.
The GlobalEye will first serve with the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces as the Swing Role Surveillance System, in November 2015, in a $1.27 billion deal. In February 2017, the UAE ordered an additional third GlobalEye in a deal worth $238 million. By May 2019, lead elements, including ground control stations, had been delivered to the UAE; deliveries of the aircraft themselves are set to commence during April 2020. Saab says the aircraft can also be used for search and rescue, border surveillance, and special military operations.Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Pakistan, Mexico and Sweden all currently use the earlier version of Erieye installed in either Saab turboprop or Embraer jet aircraft.