Paris 2011: Airbus Military and IAI Elta Systems Announce Year-old Partnership on Low-cost AEW Project
Airbus Military’s partner on the C295 AEW program was revealed here yesterday as IAI Elta Systems. The pair has been working on the airborne-early-warning project for nearly a year.
The Israeli company is designing a new, fast-rotating active-scan antenna that can also do high-resolution sector scans when halted. The partners said that the acquisition and operating cost will be “a fraction of previous AEW systems.”
“Together we will open a new market in affordable AEW for law enforcement, border patrol and event protection,” said Airbus Military CEO Domingo Urena. He added that early flight tests have already validated the aerodynamics of the rotodome.
The prototype is flying without the Elta mission sensors, which also include signals intelligence (SIGINT) and an optional, belly-mounted, multimode radar for surface surveillance. These components will be integrated when only a customer is identified. (There were hints that one could emerge from current operators of the Casa CN235/C295 series, perhaps in Latin America.)
Flying at 20,000 to 24,000 feet, a C295 AEW could offer an unrefueled endurance of up to eight hours time on station (TOS) at 200 nm from base. In-flight refueling would extend the TOS. Network-centric datalinks and a self-protection suite would be included.
Avishai Izhakian, IAI Elta business development manager, described the new radar as a fourth-generation follow-on to the Conformal AEW system on the Gulfstream G550 for the Israeli air force. It features a compact, tiled, one-piece array for the radar and a separate array for the IFF (identification, friend or foe) system, spinning together within the rotodome at nearly twice the speed of previous similar systems, such as the APY-9 on the E-2D Hawkeye. The radar’s weight and power consumption are much reduced, according to Izhakian.
The design enables radar tracks to be initiated “within seconds” and held despite any banking or pitching of the AEW platform, Izhakian continued. Detection ranges will be “very similar to today’s high-end systems,” he added. Full 360-degree coverage is available in the rotating mode, while the stationary sector mode offers 120-degree ground-stabilized coverage at extended ranges.
As an option, the C295 AEW could also be fitted with Elta’s EL-2022 multimode radar under the forward fuselage. This provides ground moving target indication and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modes, including inverse and classification SAR for maritime surveillance.
The aircraft’s sensor data can be viewed at six onboard workstations plus an airborne command post. The Airbus Military fully integrated tactical system (FITS) that is already developed and operating on maritime surveillance C295s, will be adapted to the AEW mission.