The AFSC is one of NATO's biggest projects as it plans to replace the Atlantic Alliance's E-3A Sentry aircraft. Via a response to the NSPA, Saab's GlobalEye forward airborne warning and command aircraft (AEW&C) is now among the future contenders.
GlobalEye for NATO?
On Feb. 21, the Swedish company Saab announced that it had responded to a request for information (RFI) from the NATO Support and Acquisition Agency (NSPA) as part of the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) project. Specifically, NATO is preparing its future Airborne Early Warning and Command (AEW&C) aircraft through this project. It should allow the replacement of the E-3A Sentry with a more modern aircraft that is better suited to current situations.
Saab is thus offering its GlobalEye system: A Bombardier 6000/6500 featuring a suite of sensors, including;
- an Erieye ER (extended range) active antenna multi-mode radar above the fuselage in a 10-meter long "ski box",
- a maritime surveillance radar under the fuselage,
- an electro-optical and infrared sensor under the cockpit,
- an electronic support measures (ESM) or electronic intelligence (ELINT) sensor on the wingtips
- an IFF and ADS-B sensor
This aircraft also includes various communications systems (satellite antenna, data transfer,..) and a suite of self-defense systems. In terms of capabilities, this aircraft can serve as a command post or as an airborne detection radar, with an endurance of 11 hours. When at an altitude of 35,000 feet, it can detect threats flying at an altitude of 200 feet at more than 458 kilometers away. Saab also says its sensors have a range of more than 550 kilometers.
Nothing is decided yet!
This response from Saab to RFI in no way means that the GlobalEye will fly in NATO's AEW&C fleet. Saab is simply confirming its willingness to compete for the future NATO AEW&C. This program already seems to include Boeing's E-7A Wedgetail: the latter is the clear favorite for this project! This is especially the case since Boeing, via its Boeing Ability consortium, was commissioned by NSPA to conduct a feasibility and risk study on the future NATO AEW&C (article on the subject). The final decision should be made in the next few years as the current NATO AWACS will need to be replaced by 2035.
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