Saab’s GlobalEye, also known as the Swing-Role Surveillance System, made its Dubai debut in 2019, but at that time the company hadn’t yet handed it over to its launch customer. This year the aircraft has appeared for the first time as an operational asset of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence. As well as one example in the static display, another took part in the opening day’s flypast.
Saab developed the GlobalEye based on its 30 years’ experience of airborne early warning (AEW) radar development. Based on the Bombardier Global 6000 airframe, the system carries an Erieye ER S-band electronically scanned array radar in an eight-meter fairing carried above the spine. S-band radars offer the advantages of an extremely narrow beam and low sidelobes, reducing the radar’s susceptibility to jamming.
The Erieye ER is accompanied by an under-fuselage surface search radar and electro-optic/infrared sensor turret, along with IFF, ADS-B In, and the maritime automatic identification system. Data from all sensors and from offboard sources are fused in the central C4I system, providing a powerful and versatile multi-domain surveillance system.
In the AEW role, the GlobalEye has an instrumented range of more than 300 nm and can track difficult-to-detect targets ranging from hypersonic missiles to low- and slow-flying UAVs and hovering helicopters. Overwater detection reaches at least 80 nm against small targets such as jet skis and submarine periscopes, while the system offers wide-area ground moving target indication capability against objects as small as 4x4 vehicles.
Operators benefit from an intuitive human-machine interface through which they can apply various filters to the overall air/maritime picture. The system features a number of advanced features, such as the ability to portray on a map-based display the terrain “shadows” where radar coverage cannot reach and in which maritime objects of interest might be hidden.
The GlobalEye mission system architecture allows for the application of software and hardware upgrades according to customer requirements. The ability to integrate with a variety of datalink systems that connect the aircraft to ground stations and friendly assets is an important element.
In November 2015, the UAE became the launch customer for the GlobalEye, initially ordering two with an option for a third, which it exercised in February 2017. Saab completed the conversion of the first aircraft quickly, and it was rolled out at the company’s Linköping, Sweden, plant in February 2018. The first flight occurred in the following month.
An intensive test campaign, which involved winter periods operating in the good weather of Granada in southern Spain, allowed the company to hand over the first aircraft in April 2020. The second arrived in September and the third aircraft arrived in the UAE in February this year. In the previous month, the UAE announced an order for two more aircraft to bring the fleet up to five. The two aircraft now are undergoing the conversion process, having been delivered as “green” airframes from Bombardier.
In October, the Swedish government approved the start of the acquisition process to acquire GlobalEyes for the Swedish air force to replace its two hard-working Saab 340-based S 100D/ASR890 AEW platforms. No official number for the new aircraft has been announced but is widely believed to be two, with further progress expected soon.
There are a number of further export campaigns, with the GlobalEye being included in a deal to sell the Gripen E to Finland in an answer to that country’s HX new fighter requirement. Saab competes against other fighter types but sees the inclusion of the GlobalEye as a unique “plus factor” in its bid.
GlobalEye is also part of the evaluation for South Korea’s AEW-II competition, which seeks a follow-on AEW aircraft to the Boeing 737 AEW&C Peace Eye. The AEW-II program seeks to procure two aircraft, with the release of requests for proposals expected around the end of the year.