ABU DHABI--An industry team consisting of Lockheed Martin, Saab, and Diehl Defence, have unveiled a new air defense system, known as the Falcon at IDEX 2019 in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. The three companies are aiming for the Falcon to replace the UAE’s aging Hawk air defense systems--and potentially those of other countries as well.
The system is made up of Saab’s Giraffe S-band radar, a modified version of Diehl Defence’s IRIS-T air-to-air missile, and Lockheed’s Skykeeper command system. The three companies began working together in 2016, specifically targeting the UAE’s need to replace their Hawk systems.
“We kind of searched the market, looking for the best products, the most modern [and] capable products, and that’s where we came together in a partnership,” said Scott Arnold, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of integrated air & missile defense, adding that Lockheed Martin will be the prime contractor and systems integrator on the project.
During a media briefing on the system, he posited that a typical unit of the Falcon would be one command and control vehicle, one radar vehicle and three launchers for the IRIS-T interceptors.
And those missiles are at the core of the new system. They are a modified version of the air-to-air variant in use by the German Air Force, specifically designed to be launched from the ground, with a range of up to 40 kilometers.
“Unlike other systems which are using air-to-air missiles in a ground launched role, this missile was explicitly developed for ground-based air defense applications,” Diehl Defence’s Dr. Harald Buschek told Defense News in an interview. “You need a good missile in order to intercept what you want."
But in order to fire those missiles, they’ll need a target, which is where Saab’s S-band Giraffe radar comes in. The actively-scanned electronic array (AESA) system provides 360-degree coverage with a rotation every second.
While the three companies originally teamed up specifically for the UAE’s ongoing search for a Hawk replacement, Lockheed Martin’s Arnold sees a lot of potential for other countries equipped with the Hawk to buy the Falcon, especially as those missiles get older.
“Those systems are all getting quite old, and they’re having trouble maintaining them and we think there is going to be a big market for those countries,” he said.
Jeff Martin is the Associate Editor for Multimedia and the host & producer of Defense News Weekly, airing online and on American Forces Network worldwide. In his role as Associate Editor, he reports worldwide on the military and defense industry and leads a market-leading multimedia team.