LINKOPING, Sweden — Saab has taken the wraps off a new surveillance aircraft destined to equip the United Arab Emirates with a powerful airborne early warning and control capability.
The Swedish company revealed the first of three GlobalEye aircraft it is developing and building for the UAE during a visit by reporters Feb. 23 to the Linköping facility where the work is underway.
The first flight of the aircraft is expected later this year.
The UAE ordered the first two GlobalEye jets in late 2015 and followed that up with an order for a third aircraft last year.
Saab is modifying Bombardier Global 6000 business jets with radars and other sensors to undertake AEW, maritime and ground surveillance. The heart of the capability is the new Erieye Extended Range radar employing gallium nitride semi-conductor technology to help massively increase the detection range over earlier versions of the sensor .
Leonardo’s Seaspray maritime search radar and a Flir Systems electro optical sensor are also part of the package being installed on GlobalEye.
Analysts say GlobalEye will give the UAE unmatched AEW capability among Gulf Cooperation Council members. It will be the first application for the extended range version of the Erieye radar.
Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Pakistan, Mexico and Sweden all currently use the earlier version of Erieye installed in either Saab turboprop or Embraer jet aircraft.
The UAE also operate two Saab 340 turboprops equipped with the older version of the Erieye. It’s not clear what will happen to these aircraft once GlobalEye is fully operational.
The UAE is also adding to its airborne surveillance capabilities in a separate program using Global 6000s.
British aerospace company Marshall’s is modifying two business jets for special missions work. The role of the aircraft has yet to be confirmed but the expectation is they will provide the UAE with a signals intelligence capabilities.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.