Airbus Military is exploring an airborne early-warning and control version of the C295 tactical airlifter. A company-owned aircraft that has been modified with a six-meter-diameter dummy rotodome will start a three-month flight-test campaign next month. A feasibility study for the modification was completed last December, during which engineers assessed the demands for cooling and electrical power, as well as the structural and aerodynamic considerations. The latter have since been tested by advanced computational fluid dynamics and a one-twelfth-scale wind-tunnel model. Winglets might be added to reduce drag and improve time on station to eight hours without aerial refueling, but they are not fitted yet to the aerodynamic demonstrator.
“We have a robust and flexible aircraft, with low acquisition and maintenance costs, that has already been adapted for surveillance missions. Use of a common fleet for transport, maritime patrol, ASW and AEW could provide important savings,” said Miguel-Angel Morell Fuentes, head of engineering. He said that the C295 fuselage is more suited for the layout of mission consoles than narrower-body AEW platforms offered by Embraer and Saab. Airbus Military has not identified a specific AEW radar as a candidate for integration, but ruled out “fore-and-aft facing” versions because “a 360-degree radar has better performance,” according to Morell Fuentes. A total of 111 C295s have been ordered by 24 operators in 16 countries.