Friday, November 27, 2009

Saab wins interim AEW deal, but competition continues

Defense News



Dubai Airshow 2009

Saab wins interim AEW deal, but competition continues

By Andrew Chuter and Wendell Minnick

Dubai – Saab may have won a deal with the UAE to supply an interim airborne early warning and control aircraft, but the main event, a battle between Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Saab to provide a long-term solution, continues.

The Swedish supplier stole an advantage over its rivals when the UAE announced today it was acquiring two Saab 340 turboprops equipped with the Erieye radar to allow the air force to train and gain operational experience of AEW.

The Saab 340’s big brother, the Saab 2000 Erieye active phased array system, is one of three competitors in the long-running AEW&C competition in the UAE.

Boeing is offering the 737 equipped with Northrop Grumman’s new Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) system.

Northrop is also pushing the new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye now being flight-tested by the U.S. Navy.

Maj. Gen. Faris Al Mazrouei, the UAE Army logistics chief who announced the deal, made it clear though that in his opinion, neither the Boeing nor the Northrop offerings were at a stage where a decision could be reached on a winning platform.

Boeing had suffered technical deliveries on the 737 MESA platform it was delivering to Australia, while Northrop’s E-2D machine had yet to be fielded by the U.S. Navy, he said.

The first of the Australian platforms, known as the Wedgetail, are about to be delivered after a long delay.

The Saab 340 deal will see both aircraft delivered in little more than a year.

James Culmo, Northrop’s vice president and program officer for the AEW program, said the company was also in discussions with India for the E-2Ds.

“The UAE decision is expected in 2010 for four aircraft with an option for a fifth,” said John Beaulieu, U.S. Navy, business development manager for the E-2/C-2 program.

E-2C on Display at Dubai

The E-2D offers radar modes including air and sea surface capability. Radar modes include airborne early warning, surveillance, enhanced sector scanning and enhanced tracking capability.

The Hawkeye platform also has the capability to deal with the increasing threat posed by cruise missiles.

Northrop Grumman also sees a large market for its new MESA airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, said John Johnson, vice president and general manager, Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems Division.

MESA would meet UAE needs for a complete airborne early warning and control solution. “The UAE would be an ideal candidate for the system,” Johnson said.

MESA meets regional C2ISR challenges and answers demanding airborne and ground Moving Target Indicator (MTI), Indications and Warning (I&W), and maritime surveillance requirements.

The radar uses a multirole electronically scanned dorsal antenna that radiates left and right 60 degrees and back and front 30 degrees. “You can track over a hundred targets,” said Northrop’s Paul “Buzz” Kalafos, vice resident, International Infrastructure Systems, Electronic Systems.

“Mechanical radars have more breakdowns,” he said. MESA is the next generation of airborne radars that will eventually replace mechanical round airborne radars.

With a range of 300 nautical miles and a line of sight at 40,000 feet altitude, MESA has multiple surveillance modes that include an airborne mode that covers cruise missiles, fighters, helicopters; maritime mode for fast patrol boats and large vessels like frigates; dedicated track beam mode; and Indications Friend or Foe (IFF) mode.

The radar can also project further into a threat sector while maintaining 360-degree coverage.

According to Northrop’s PowerPoint presentation, MESA coverage from UAE airspace covers most of southern Iran.

The system “provides for gap filler capabilities for lack of coverage or loss of forward EW radars,” Johnson said. MESA can work with Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles and fire control radars.

Australia is set to receive two aircraft next week, and the program with Turkey for four systems is now moving forward after overcoming earlier problems.

The Turkish air force ordered four systems under the Peace Eagle program under a deal with local Turkish aerospace companies for parts production, assembly and aircraft modification.

In November 2006, South Korea ordered four systems in a $1.6 contract with Boeing and Northrop. They are set for delivery in 2012.

Saab has sold the Erieye to Brazil, Greece, Pakistan, Sweden and Thailand. The customers have used Saab turboprop or Embraer jet platforms.

Northrop has sold hundreds of Hawkeye E-2 variants to numerous customers including the U.S. Navy, France, Japan and Egypt.