Making its worldwide public debut at the Dubai Airshow is Saab’s GlobalEye, a multisensor “swing-role surveillance system” based on the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet, for which the UAE Air Force is the launch customer. The first delivery is expected sometime in the first half of next year.
The aircraft features an Erieye ER radar in a “ski-box” fairing above the fuselage with a primary role of airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), with a belly-mounted Leonardo Seaspray 7500E multi-mode surveillance radar that is mainly used for surface search. Complementing the radars is an electro-optic sensor turret.
An initial order for two GlobalEyes was announced at the 2015 Dubai Airshow, and a third aircraft was added in February 2017. Having been supplied as a “green” Global 6000 from Bombardier, the first GlobalEye flew after modification on March 14, 2018. The second aircraft took to the air on January 3, while the third joined the test fleet on August 30.
GlobalEye features extensive aerodynamic and structural alterations from the baseline business jet, requiring an intensive trial campaign that was conducted using aircraft No. 1. Following initial tests at Saab’s Linköping plant in Sweden, the trials moved to Granada in Andalucia, Spain, where the good climate ensured that the aggressive schedule could be met. The aerodynamic handling and envelope expansion tests are now complete, with Saab (Stand 1060) reporting that handling is close to that of a regular Global 6000, despite the alterations. Test crews also report that the three aircraft all behave identically and in full alignment with ground-based tests and computer-modeled predictions.
In the meantime, mission system verification trials have been performed using the second and third aircraft, which were completed to full system specifications. Most of the flight testing is aimed at verifying system performance that has been thoroughly tested in various ground rigs. This not only includes sensor performance, but also that of communications, planning systems, and the central mission-management architecture. As they are in customer-specified configuration, it is likely that the second and third aircraft will be the first to be handed over. Aircraft No. 1 requires some modification to full standards before it can be delivered, including the removal of dedicated test equipment.
As part of the service entry process, UAE personnel have begun training in Sweden on the GlobalEye and its systems, and some elements of the extensive ground support equipment have already been delivered. The UAE Air Force has been operating two Saab 340 AEW&Cs for a number of years, which feature a forerunner of the Erieye ER radar carried by the GlobalEye.
Saab continues to market the GlobalEye to a number of potential customers. The type is on offer to Finland as part of a package (with the Gripen E/F fighter) to upgrade the country’s air defenses in answer to the HX requirement. It is also being proposed to South Korea, which is seeking additional AEW&C capability to augment its four-aircraft Boeing 737 “Peace Eye” fleet.