Speaking to ChainHomeHigh during Airbus’s annual press conference on 17th January at the company’s delivery centre in Toulouse, South West France, Domingo Ureňa-Raso, Chief Executive Office of Airbus Military, provided an update regarding the company’s Airborne Early Warning (AEW) project.
Airbus Military’s AEW initiative installs an Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) Elta division Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar in a characteristic mushroom-shaped radome atop of the company’s C-295 medium-lift turboprop freighter.
During the 2011 Paris Air Show it was announced that IAI Elta would be providing the radar for the project which the company is developing from scratch. IAI Elta produces a number of AEW radars including the L-band ELW-2090 which has been integrated onto the Ilyushin Il-76 turbofan strategic freighter as part of the company’s Phalcon initiative. The radar can perform Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) interrogation, maritime search and the indication of ground-moving targets via the employment of a synthetic aperture mode.
According to Mr. Ureňa-Raso, the company is currently working on the integration of the radar with the aircraft’s systems. The C-295 testbed which Airbus Military is flying has a radome installed on top of its fuselage and representative loads to simulate the weight of the radar and its accompanying equipment, although the integration of the IAI Elta radar with the aircraft’s systems is being performed on the ground.
Mr. Ureňa-Raso adds that the full integration of the radar onto the aircraft will be dependent on customers being forthcoming so as to finance this part of the process: “We need to get some firm orders by 2014 and after that it should take us three to four years to complete the first delivery.” Flight tests commenced in June 2011, and both Airbus Military and IAI Elta are investing several million dollars into the initiative. The aircraft will be marketed Airbus Military, although both companies will provide input regarding potential customers.
In the marketplace, the C-295 AEW will complete directly with Saab Microwave Systems’ Erieye AEW radar and IAI Elta’s ELW-2085 AEW radar which is mounted onboard a Gulftstream G550 corporate jet. The ELW-2085 is the sister product of the ELW-2090 (see above). It is available in L-band and S-band configurations and provides 360º coverage using conformal arrays fitted on the side, front and back of the aircraft’s fuselage.