Saab GlobalEye Airborne Early Warning & Control Aircraft Completes First Flight

Saab’s new AEW&C aircraft has successfully completed its maiden flight.

On Mar. 14, Saab GlobalEye, a modified Bombardier Global 6000 jet turned into surveillance platform, took off on its first flight at 12.52 LT from Saab’s airfield in Linköping, Sweden.

The aircraft was officially unveiled to the media on Feb. 23, 2018. It carries a full suite of sophisticated sensors including the powerful new extended range radar (Erieye ER), an AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar. The Erieye ER is contained within the same “skibox” fairing used by other AEW platforms (i.e. the Hellenic Air Force EMB-145H), but new technologies, such as gallium nitride transmit/receive modules are said to provide a 70% increase in detection range.

The aircraft is also equipped with the Leonardo Seaspray 7500E X-band maritime search radar and a FLIR Systems EO/IR (electro-optical/infra-red) turret below the nose.

The GlobalEye launch customer is the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, where it is known as the Swing Role Surveillance System (SRSS). Three aircraft have been ordered in 2015. The SRSS won’t be the UAE AF’s first AEW&C platform: two Saab 340AEW&C were delivered as an interim solution between 2010 and 2011. Although it’s not clear what will happen to these two aircraft as the new GlobalEye enters active service, the new assets, with the first application of the Erieye ER, will give the UAE a pretty unique AEW force among the Gulf States, with simultaneous airborne, maritime, and ground surveillance capability. Moreover, the UAE AF is about to be equipped with other heavily-modified Global 6000 aircraft: two such planes are reportedly being modified by Marshall Group at Cambridge, UK, into ELINT/SIGINT platforms.

The maiden flight of the GlobalEye, preceded by a series of ground trials including high and low speed taxi tests (during those the aircraft started “pinging” on ADS-B), lasted 1 hour 46 minutes. During the flight, the aircraft (with registration SE-RMY) could be tracked online on Flightradar24 portal.

The GlobalEye, registration SE-RMY, could be tracked online during its first flight by means of ADS-B. (Image: screenshot from Flightradar24).

According to Saab, the test flight was important to collect extensive flight-test data using the on-board instrumentation suite. This data is then used to verify the aircraft performance and associated modelling.

“The first flight is the second major milestone for the GlobalEye programme within a very short space of time. Yet again we have demonstrated that we are delivering on our commitments and that we are on track with our production of the world’s most advanced swing-role surveillance system,” said Anders Carp, Senior Vice President and head of Saab’s business area Surveillance, in a public release.

“Today’s flight went as planned, with the performance level matching our high expectations. The aircraft’s smooth handling was just as predicted and a real pleasure for me to fly,” said Magnus Fredriksson, Saab Experimental Test Pilot.

Image credit: Saab

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.