Singapore’s E-2C hawkeye, the radar can detect target to 370 km range, have max operating ceiling 9,4 km and max endurance 6 hours. (photo : XAirforces)
The ability for armed forces to carry out effective self-defence and combat operations relies heavily on aerial defence systems. Central to this is the use of Airborne Early Warning (AEW) systems and Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems (AWACS).
The use of these aircraft as centralised battle command and communication centres is vital for acountry to able to carry out surveillance over land and water, and todirect airborne, ground and naval platforms during operations. Having the most technologically advanced system in the air canmeans the difference between an armed force that is able to defend its own assets, and one that cannot.
Within the Asia-Pacific region, many countries are carrying out major upgrades of their aerial defences, both acquiring technology from foreign manufacturers, and developing indigenous platforms and systems. The race to field the most advanced technology has led to the region becoming one of the fastest growing markets for AWACS solutions in the world, as each country tries to compete with and outdo its neighbours. In particular, as North Korea and China both move towards a future of significant military dominance, the growing imbalance within the region is forcing other nations to update and modernise their early warning, interception and surveillance systems.
The technology currently being fielded and developed within the region is now amongst some of the most capable in the world. The region has seen an influx of Israeli and European technology as the IAI Phalcon and Saab Erieye gain a strong footing in the market, with US interests being maintained by Boeing.
Thailand’s Saab 340 Erieye equipped with AESA radar, can detect target to 350 km range, have max operating ceiling 9,4 km and max endurance 7 hours. (photo : Mihalik Andras)
In September, Saab unveiled its new integrated air defence system for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) at a ceremony at the company’s factory in Linköping, Sweden. The system consists of the Gripen C/D, the ERIEYE airborne early warning system and a Command and Control system that includes data link communication.
The contract forms the foundation for an advanced network based defence system that will see Thailand’s air defences upgraded to amongst the most advanced in the Asia-Pacific region, and bring them in line with recent additions to the air defences of many of their closest neighbours. The first ERIEYE airborne early warning (AEW) system will be delivered in late 2010 aboard a Saab 340 aircraft, along with an additional 340 aircraft.
One of the most important aspects of the contract between Sweden and Thailand is the inclusion of the ERIEYE AEW&C system. Saab calls the system a ‘true force multiplier’ that offers significantly greater area coverage than conventional ground-based sensors. The system is capable of air and sea surveillance with an effective coverage of 500,000 sq kilometres horizontally and 20 km vertically. The radar is an active phased array radar and its S-band technology gives operational capability in all weather and light conditions, even under heavy jamming conditions. The radar is capable of detecting small air targets, hovering helicopters, cruise missiles and small surface targets such as inflatable rubber boats, giving a highly enhanced surveillance picture. The Erieye also features remote control operation allowing mission personnel to remain on the ground during operations.
Pakistan’s Saab 2000 Erieye equipped with AESA radar, can detect target to 350 km range, have max operating ceiling 10,4 km and max endurance 8 hours. (photo : PakAF)
The addition of the ERIEYE system will give the RTAF the ability to carry out air and sea surveillance, as well as to control national borders, waters and economic zones, disaster management, search and rescue as well as air traffic control and air policing. Crucially it also provides airborne early warning, alert warning and will enable the RTAF to control its own assets, including airborne and ground-based platforms and control centres.
The Thai sale of the Saab Erieye is a boon for Saab, who is marketing the system heavily in the region against fierce competition from companies including IAI and Boeing. The Saab ERIEYE was also sold to Pakistan as part of a contract that came into effect in 2006. Under the Pakistan agreement, Saab will provide a Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft equipped with the Erieye radar for border security and natural disaster monitoring and search and rescue. Two of these aircraft are believed to have been delivered to date.
India’s Phalcon, the radar can detect target to 400 km range, have max operating ceiling 13,0 km and max endurance 6 hours. (photo : Jetphotos)
India has been looking at enhancing its airborne radar capabilities as part of a comprehensive upgrade of the Indian Air Force (IAF), and in 2004 a contract was signed with IAI for the Phalcon AWACS. India will receive a total of six systems, which will be fitted into the Ilyushin Il-76 military transport aircraft.
The addition of the Phalcon AWACS system to the IAF will significantly enhance the nation’s air defences, and address growing imbalances presented by two of its nearest neighbours — China and Pakistan. The Phalcon AEW provides long range, high performance tactical surveillance for airborne, ground and naval targets, acting as a force multiplier. The system is multi-sensor, integrating radar, IFF, ESM/ELINE and CSM/COMINT technology that gives crosscorrelation of all data generated. The radar system is a phased array radar able to track multiple targets within full 360°degree range, and gives the ability to carry out ‘selectable surveillance’ within certain areas such as a particular battle zone. Optimized detection and tracking also allows the tracking of manoeuvring and high value targets, as well as fast track initiation, extended detection range and a high fault tolerance and redundancy. The system receives UHF, VHF and HF transmissions, and command and control is enhanced by large hi-res display systems and a communications suite that provides long distance secure voice and data links to air, ground and maritime assets, and voice and data relay facilities. India gained the upper hand from China when it successfully acquired the IAI technology. China had previously been involved in discussions with IAI to obtain the Phalcon, but technology transfer laws prevented the deal from going ahead.
(Asian Military Review)