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Issue No 11
August 2018
 
  Published by Dar Assayad Arab Defence Journal
Highlights   المعلوماتية العسكرية تكنولوجيا الدفاع حول العالم العالم العربي تحديث السلاح الافتتاحية رسالة الناشر
EYES IN THE SKY
One of the most important air assets available to force commanders in the 21st Century is the airborne electronic warfare aircraft. These modern platforms come in all shapes and sizes and can be extensively fitted out with sensors, mission systems and on-board displays, as well as comprehensive, secure communications systems and data-links, including satellite communications. Electronic Warfare can include Signals and Communications Intelligence (SIGINT and COMINT) with specialised multi-frequency radio equipment to monitor, jam and re-transmit hostile communications. Other specialist roles include Airborne Early Warning (AEW) of hostile air movements, with Command and Control (C2) capabilities which allow the aircraft to act as the flying command post, directing friendly aircraft to targets beyond the radar range of their own fighter radars. In the C2 role they can also provide an area air traffic control (ATC) service, helping to avoid conflicting air movements within a busy tactical area of operations and also providing interim ATC facilities for civil air movements in an emergency, such as where a natural event (as in a hurricane or earthquake) might have destroyed normal surface radars and ATC ground stations.
There are also smaller tactical EW platform aircraft that can provide covert electronic and electro-optical visual surveillance for governments in support of anti-terrorist activities or to provide additional police and homeland defence capabilities over potential high value targets or special high-profile events. The latest synthetic aperture radar (SAR) systems can provide high definition images of surface areas, and can also be programmed within mission systems to seek out and track suspicious ground movements. Monitoring mobile telephone communications and tracking their use is also becoming more important in counter-terror operations.

Saab has been actively marketing its Erieye Airborne Early Warning radar solution, with much success around the world, especially for customers who need a modern, capable, surveillance air platform solution, but who do not need, or want, this to be delivered in a large, converted jetliner package. The classic Boeing E3D Sentry AWACS is in widespread use, but is a large four-engine aircraft, costly to operate and maintain, and requires a large number of crew. The 737-based E-7A Wedgetail, although smaller, is also held in high regard, especially in use with the Royal Australian Air Force. The Saab Erieye radar system, with its distinctive above-cabin location, has become popular as it can be integrated onto much more compact regional and business platform aircraft, such as the jet Embraer ERJ-145, and turboprop Saab 340 and 2000. Saab rolled out, in United Arab Emirates Air Force livery, a new, highly flexible Special Mission air system, based on the Bombardier Global 6000, named Globaleye. Three have been ordered by UAE. The Globaleye"s swing role multi-mission platform can bring superior situational awareness and saved time resulting from the fully integrated capabilities fused together within one platform. Saab is also offering a maritime multi-role platform, also based on the Global 6000 airframe and known as the Swordfish variant.
The Bombardier Global Express 5000 is also used as the basis for another electronic surveillance aircraft, the Raytheon Sentinel R1, which has been used by the UK Royal Air Force in the Middle East and West and North Africa supporting anti-terrorist operations. The Sentinel has an SAR radar carried in a long under-fuselage fairing, and can identify and track many thousands of ground movements over a vast area.
The latest Gulfstream business jets also match the Global Express as EW aircraft, several operators using them for AEW and ELINT missions. France has recently decided to introduce three modified Falcon jets in an EW role. The UAE Air Force is also planning to operate another pair of Global Express 6000 jets in the reconnaissance role. The Royal Saudi Air Force has made a big investment in EW platforms and operates five Boeing E-3A AWACS, two Saab 2000 AEW aircraft and a number of King Air 350 twin turboprop aircraft in the Electronic Warfare role.
There can be no doubt that Electronic Warfare air systems are becoming "must have" air assets, and converted business jets and small turboprop aircraft have an essential role to play alongside larger special mission aircraft, and large turboprop platforms, such as the C-130J and C295, as well as the large number of unmanned drones now also providing tactical EW support.
 
 
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