CAEW is an off-the-shelf AEW&C aircraft system, installed on the Gulfstream G550 platform.
The aircraft is an airborne early warning and control system developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elta Electronics Industries of Israel.
Its primary objective is to provide intelligence to maintain air superiority and conduct surveillance. The system is currently in-service with Israel and Singapore, and in the future Italy and the United States.
CAEW is equipped with current generation AESA radar using Gallium Nitrade technology and state of the art ESM/ELINT systems, however little technical detail exists in the public domain on these for obvious reasons. IAI say that CAEW is already fully interoperable with NATO Communications, Data Link and IFF Standards say IAI.
According to the company:
“ELTA is well positioned to provide the UK with a mature, off-the-shelf NATO compliant AEW&C solution. As is common practice with in-country Industrial-Participation, ELTA plans to work with local integrators and suppliers to ensure the success of the program and shorten the delivery schedule.
Transfer of technology and know-how to UK industry will generate opportunities and employment for the UK market thus boosting prosperity.”
Some plus points, according to the company:
• Operates at 41,000 ft, above commercial air traffic, providing improved Intelligence &
· 10 Minutes from take-off: All systems are operational
· 20 Minutes from take-off: Reaches 41,000 ft
• More on-station time than similar available AWACS solutions – over 10 hours
• Operates from short narrow airfields for flexible mission planning and ease of
• Ground Cycle/Turnaround time of less than one hour
• Two G550 CAEW can provide continuous 24/7 surveillance
Another option reportedly being considered is the E-7 Wedgetail, an Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft with maritime search capabilities, the ability to control unmanned aircraft and intelligence gathering capabilities.
The E-7A Wedgetail is based on a Boeing 737-700, with the addition of an advanced Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar and 10 mission crew console. They can cover four million square kilometres during a single 10 hour mission according to the Royal Australian Air Force.
We recently reported that options for the future delivery of the UK’s Airborne Warning and Control capability are being explored, with the focus now on replacing the E-3D Sentry fleet. We understand that upgrades however are reportedly considered to be expensive. According to Janes here, maintenance is becoming increasingly costly and replacing them instead might be the most cost-effective option.
Some industry commentators are also arguing for a new aircraft type altogether. The large sums of money allocated to upgrading the E-3D fleet should be used to purchase a more advanced off-the-shelf aircraft, a defence analyst has argued.
Justin Bronk, Research Fellow, Airpower and Technology, outlines options for replacing the E-3 fleet in his paper ‘The Future of Air C2 and AEW: E-3 Sentry, Threat Technologies and Future Replacement Options’:
“The RAF’s E-3Ds need a £2-billion CSP both to bring them to rough parity with current US and French standards by the mid-2020s and to stretch the fleet out to 2035 in the process. However, the E-3, even in modernised form, is no longer a cutting-edge ABM&S system in a world where proliferating long-range missile systems and emerging non-Western low-observable fighters can force it to stay hundreds of kilometres from contested airspace, placing a higher premium on BLOS communications capacity rather than onboard sensors.
Even when it is able to operate closer to the battlespace, the AN/APY-1/2 mechanically scanned radar array common to all E-3s has significant inherent limitations in terms of its ability to detect low-observable, very slow moving and hypersonic threats, unlike more modern AESA-equipped AWACS types already in service with the US Navy and various air forces around the world. An AESA-equipped ABM&S platform with improved communications node capabilities, based on a commercial-derivative airframe, seems a logical alternative option which could provide the RAF with a more capable and efficient alternative to extending the life of the E-3D over the next 20 years.”
What we don’t know however is how closely any of the aircraft match what the Royal Air Force want from an E-3D Sentry replacement but the degree of commonality Wedgetail has with the Posiedon Maritime Patrol Aircraft being purchased for the RAF can’t be a bad thing, especially when Wedgetail also has an enhanced maritime search capability which may be useful in augmenting the relatively few P-8s being purchased.