Saab eyes GlobalEye AEW&C as NATO E-3A successor

In response to a Request for Information (RFI) from NATO’s Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) regarding the Alliance Future Surveillance and Control (AFSC) project, Saab has offered a solution based on its GlobalEye multi-domain airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft.

As part of the AFSC programme, NATO aims to define and develop options for a new generation of airborne surveillance and control capabilities before the Alliance replaces its 14-strong fleet of Boeing E-3A Sentry AEW&C aircraft, which is scheduled to be retired from use in 2035, after what will have been 50 years of operational service. Launched by the North Atlantic Council (NAC) in February 2017, the AFSC Concept Stage – which is led by the NSPA – carried out studies and developed technical concepts for future surveillance solutions to replace the E-3A Sentry fleet currently operated by the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force (NAEW&CF).

During this early phase, the NSPA evaluated new technologies and explore a system of systems approach that included potential combinations of air, ground, maritime and space surveillance and control platforms that work together to collect and share information. In December 2018, the NAC declared that the first phase of the AFSC Concept Stage was complete and agreed to proceed into a second phase; work under which is currently ongoing. As part of this phase, the NSPA awarded six contracts to industry – including General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, MDA, Airbus and consortiums led by Boeing and L3Harris – to develop and analyse the feasibility of High Level Technical Concepts that have been proposed to meet NATO’s AEW&C future requirements.

Saab GlobalEye (registration SE-RMU, c/n 9787) in flight. The aircraft's primary sensor, an Erieye ER AESA radar, is mounted above the Bombardier Global 6000's fuselage.
Saab GlobalEye (registration SE-RMU, c/n 9787) in flight. The aircraft's primary sensor, an Erieye ER AESA radar, is mounted above the Bombardier Global 6000's fuselage. Saab

Having announced that it has responded to an RFI from the NSPA on February 21, 2023, Saab has formally proposed a solution based on its new GlobalEye multi-domain AEW&C aircraft and officially thrown its hat into the AFSC ring. Carl-Johan Bergholm, head of Saab’s Surveillance business area, said: “Saab is a proven and trusted part of NATO’s defence industrial base and we are present in more than two thirds of the member nations. Our solutions, including GlobalEye, are from the outset developed to be compliant with NATO’s requirements. I am confident that we can contribute with important capabilities that will strengthen NATO and benefit the member countries.”

Saab’s GlobalEye platform is capable of simultaneously performing air, ground and maritime surveillance operations. It combines a number of advanced sensors with the company’s new Erieye ER active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, which have been integrated onto a Bombardier Global 6000 ultra-long-range business jet. At present, the UAE is the sole operator and only confirmed customer of the platform. The Swedish government has also ordered two examples of the platform in the future to replace its ageing fleet of two Saab S 100D Argus AEW&C aircraft.

NATO’s E-3A Sentry fleet entered operational service in February 1982, with 18 aircraft delivered to the organisation in total. In November 2019, NATO’s Airborne Early Warning and Control Programme Management Agency signed a US$1bn Final Lifetime Extension Programme contract with Boeing to upgrade its remaining 14 E-3As with new communications and networking capabilities, allowing them to remain operational until 2035, when they will be replaced by the AFSC solution.