Dubai Air Show

UAE set to make AEW&C choice from Northrop, Boeing or Saab

 - November 12, 2007, 11:35 AM

The UAE Air Force will make a decision soon regarding its key airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C) requirement, AIN understands. The choice follows an extensive analysis of the force’s operational needs and the issue of a highly detailed request for information (RFI) last year.

Before the previous Dubai Air Show the UAE Air Force and Air Defense had signaled its serious intentions to acquire an airborne early warning and control system. Following a requirements analysis that covered a broad range of AEW solutions, including ground-based and aerostats, an RFI went out to industry in late 2006. Although the contents of the RFI (and the responses) remain classified, indications suggest a very detailed document.

The three competitors are all presenting their AEW&C products at the show: Boeing, with a 737AEW&C in the static park; Northrop Grumman, with a Hawkeye here visiting from the USS Enterprise; and Saab, with an Erieye system presentation at its stand in the West Hall.

Boeing’s 737 AEW&C employs a Northrop Grumman MESA radar mounted above the rear fuselage of a 737-700. MESA employs a unique “top hat” arrangement that allows the system to provide 360-degree coverage. The 737 AEW&C system already counts Australia (as the Wedgetail), Korea and Turkey as customers. The first Turkish aircraft is making its international debut here at Dubai.

The E-2D Hawkeye forms the basis of the Northrop Grumman bid. The latest Hawkeye version carries a phased-array radar in a rotating dome. While it offers advanced technology, the company believes it can meet or exceed the requirements. The Hawkeye also brings with it a long history of successful operations, and a tight-knit international development and operational team with a considerable depth of knowledge.

The Erieye AEW radar system has fallen under Saab’s umbrella since the company bought Ericsson Microwave Systems in 2006. The company’s offering to the UAE is based on the Saab 2000 platform, as recently ordered by Pakistan. The Erieye can also be mounted on the smaller Saab 340 turboprop, and the Embraer ERJ145 regional jet.

However, in the case of the UAE, the Saab 2000 proved the best solution because the turboprop airliner platform offers good field performance in hot conditions.

If required by the operational situation, the Saab 2000 can accelerate rapidly from the low speeds associated with optimum radar performance, while it can perform 180-degree turns at the end of patrol legs very quickly. Saab highlights the cost/performance aspect of its system, low acquisition and operating costs being key drivers of the design, with minimum compromise in system performance.