The GlobalEye multi-sensor airborne early warning/multirole surveillance program is “on schedule” in the build-up to its entry into service with the UAE Air Force and Air Defence (AFAD), which is slated for April 2020, Saab has reported. The UAE became the launch customer for the GlobalEye just over three years ago, announcing an initial deal for two of the aircraft at the Dubai air show in November 2015. A third was subsequently added during the IDEX show in February 2017.
Also known as the Swing-Role Surveillance System (SRSS), the GlobalEye is an adaptation of the Bombardier Global 6000 long-range business jet to the multi-surveillance role. The chief sensor is a Saab Erieye ER airborne early warning (AEW) radar mounted in a “ski-box” fairing above the aircraft’s spine. Additional sensors reportedly include a FLIR Systems Star Safire 380HD electro-optic turret beneath the forward fuselage and a Leonardo Seaspray 7500E AESA radar in a large-belly radome.
Having been rolled out in February 2018, the first aircraft performed its post-modification flight on March 14 at Saab’s Linköping plant, where the three airframes have been converted from green Global 6000 airframes. The extensive nature of the modifications—encompassing structural and significant aerodynamic changes, as well as an expanded and rerouted cabling network—dictated a major flight test campaign to clear the GlobalEye for service.
Soon after its initial flights from Linköping, which had proved basic aircraft system functions and aerodynamics, the number 1 GlobalEye—operating under the Swedish civil registration SE-RMY—was deployed to Granada in Andalucia for an exhaustive flight-test campaign. The move to southern Spain was driven by the region’s excellent weather and the need to fly regularly to meet the contracted schedule.
SE-RMY has subsequently been put through rigorous systems and aerodynamic testing, flying numerous test points with varying speeds, altitudes, and loads. The primary aim of the trials is to validate predicted calculations made using computers and wind tunnel trials. The GlobalEye is fitted with its own instrumentation and recording equipment so that no specific ground infrastructure is required to record gathered data. This “orange box”' equipment will be removed prior to customer delivery.
While the aircraft remained in Spain throughout the late summer and autumn, test teams of between six and 10 personnel, including two pilots, have rotated to Granada every four to six weeks. In December, the number 1 GlobalEye returned briefly to Sweden but returned to Granada to complete its trials.
In the meantime, Saab achieved a major milestone on January 3 this year with the first flight of the second aircraft, SE-RMZ. The aircraft is intended primarily as the mission systems test aircraft and is to remain in Sweden for trials. Much of the systems test work has been accomplished in a ground rig. The third aircraft has completed the major part of the structural modification work, and the one-tonne “ski-box” fairing has been mounted. The aircraft is undergoing the fitment of systems in preparation for its first flight, which is expected around the end of the year.
In the meantime, the UAE AFAD has received the first ground station element for the GlobalEye system and continues to operate a pair of ex-Swedish air force Saab 340 aircraft carrying the legacy Erieye system. When the new SRSS platforms enter service they will bring a dramatic increase in capability. The Erieye ER S-band radar alone, with its gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor technology, promises a 70 percent increase in detection range against traditional aerial targets, as well as offering much improved performance against small, low-flying vehicles, as well as those with low-observable “stealthy” characteristics. The Erieye ER also has a maritime surface detection capability.
On top of that, the Seaspray radar and electro-optic turret provide the GlobalEye with a powerful maritime and overland surveillance capability, including synthetic aperture radar imaging and ground moving target indication. With its array of sensors and communications links all being controlled by an advanced integrated mission system with five operator consoles, the GlobalEye offers a complete multi-intelligence package that can swing between roles seamlessly.
Basing the system on the Global 6000 provides long endurance with a high dash speed capability should the aircraft be required rapidly in a certain mission area. The platform’s business jet roots also make it a comfortable working environment for the crew, and it has size, weight, and power growth potential to add further systems and personnel. Any future orders would be based on the Global 6500, with more powerful Rolls-Royce Pearl engines.
Since the type’s official marketing launch in 2016, Saab has reported significant interest in the GlobalEye from both countries with existing AEW assets and those that seek the capability. The “system of systems” can be scaled and tailored to meet individual requirements, and Saab can localize the system through the integration of existing national command and control datalinks and networks.