Saab Outlines New MPA and AEW Developments

 - July 18, 2014, 8:30 AM
The Saab 2000 can serve as the platform for both the Swordfish maritime patroller (foreground) and Erieye AEW aircraft.

Saab has been steadily building its airborne ISR portfolio and hopes to secure its first deal in the maritime surveillance/patrol market in the near future. Saab has two offerings in this sector: the Saab 340 MSA (maritime surveillance aircraft), for which the company has produced a demonstrator that was on show at Farnborough; and the larger and more capable Swordfish. Saab has been keeping the UK aware of its developments in this field, although any formal requirement for a UK maritime patrol aircraft is not expected until after a strategic defense review next year.

The Swordfish MR MPA (multi-role maritime patrol aircraft) is based on the Saab 2000 airliner and features a full system fit for a variety of missions, including a Selex ES Seaspray 7500 e-scan search radar and internal tanks to extend range. The Swordfish is capable of anti-surface unit warfare and anti-submarine warfare, for which it employs a rapid-release rotary sonobuoy launcher. Saab is reticent on details of how arming the aircraft might be achieved. Previously the company has shown the 2000 MR MPA with two anti-ship missiles on pylons under the center fuselage.

Saab has recently made considerable strides in its Erieye airborne early-warning system, and development continues to pursue a spiral approach. Eight countries now operate the system on three types of aircraft (Saab 340, Saab 2000 and Embraer E-99/ERJ-145). Brazil’s five aircraft are undergoing a major update to E-99/M standard, which adds more operator consoles, upgrades the command and control system and introduces radar modifications. Saab is working with local company Atech to supply Brazil-specific software.

Its waveform makes the Erieye one of only a handful of AEW systems that can detect helicopters by spotting returns from the rotor blades. This detection capability against small, slow and low targets has also been extended to small surface vessels, and now Saab is working on adding ground moving-target indication capability to provide overland capability. The generation of synthetic-aperture radar imagery, while theoretically possible, is not being pursued because of the nature of the radar’s S-band emissions.

Improvements to the system currently under trial include the addition of ADS-B and AIS to the radar for cooperative tracking of aircraft and ships, respectively. The mission computer fuses this data with the radar picture and can incorporate tracks generated passively by the ESM/Elint system. ADS-B information can be received from aircraft flying up to 200 nm away.

Among the other developments are better map-handling, and databases that can provide satellite imagery and line-of-sight plots for mapping radar shadows. Future Erieye refinements could include adoption of the gallium nitride antenna technology newly introduced on the Giraffe series of ground-based surveillance radars.

Saab also offers the Airtracer signals intelligence system. This can be installed in a Saab 2000, or as the Airtracer Flex in a roll-on/roll-off container for cargo aircraft such as the C-130 Hercules.