LINKÖPING, Sweden — The first of three GlobalEye surveillance aircraft developed for the United Arab Emirates by Swedish defense group Saab is on schedule to be delivered in April 2020, says Håkan Buskhe, Saab’s CEO.

Meanwhile, the second of the aircraft undertook its first flight last January so the test program is on schedule, Lars Tossman, head of radar solutions for Saab, confirmed at a media event here.

The first aircraft is currently being tested in Granada, Spain, where weather conditions more closely resemble those of the client than in Sweden. The third aircraft is under production.

The $1.27bn launch contract for this airborne surveillance program was signed in November 2015, and 28 months later GlobalEye undertook its maiden flight. Based on a Bombardier Global 6000/6500 ultra long-range aircraft, modified by Saab to be able to carry the tonne-weight of the new Erieye ER (extended range) radar on its back, GlobalEye also carries a maritime surveillance radar which can detect targets as small as a jet-ski. Tossman explained that the maritime radar, when used in combination with Erieye ER, would enable a periscope to be detected. The aircraft also carries a long-range, wide-area, ground-moving target indicator.

Erik Weinberg, senior director for radar solutions at Saab, explained that the S-band used by the new Erieye is extremely difficult to jam given its narrow beam and low side lobes. It was not developed specifically for GlobalEye but because “anti-jamming has always been an important consideration [for Sweden] given our neighbour [Russia],” he explained.

Despite the payload, the aircraft apparently handles well, “flying very much like the VIP version,” says Tossman, adding that GlobalEye would compete in the global market for surveillance aircraft even for “customers who might not choose the same configuration.”

Saab has been able to set up a wholly owned radar company in Abu Dhabi, Saab Ltd., to help service the system and be a base for its radar systems in the Middle East.