Saab are displaying their Maritime Patrol Aircraft offering, the Swordfish, at UDT 2018. Let’s take a look. 

Saab’s Swordfish maritime patrol aircraft is a combination of Bombardier’s Global 6000 ultra-long-range aircraft, General Dynamics Mission Systems Canada’s acoustics processor and Saab’s airborne surveillance solutions.

The maritime patrol aircraft design is equipped with up to four weapon hard points under the wings to carry anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and drop pods for search-and-rescue missions.

Image via Saab.

The Global 6000 configuration has a maximum cruise speed of 450kt and a long-range cruise speed of 360kt. It can operate over a range of 4,400nm.

According to Saab, the Swordfish comes with a range of customisable options:

  • AESA 360° multi-mode radar
  • Multi-statics acoustic system
  • HD quality EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared systems) sensor with integrated laser payload
  • SATCOM and tactical data links
  • Four weapon hard points
  • MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) boom
Image via Saab.

“Saab understands every mission that the modern MPA will be called upon to perform and we know how to deliver success. That is why we carefully selected the Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft for our airborne surveillance solutions. It brings a perfect balance of operational performance and cost, and is ideally suited to demanding, multi-level MPA operations.

Although an MPA has to be able to handle many different missions, airborne anti-submarine warfare remains the core competence of any credible MPA. General Dynamic Mission Systems-Canada heritage as the premier supplier of acoustic processors to aircraft means that Swordfish can locate, track and classify all submarine types,” says Lars Tossman, Head of Airborne Surveillance at Saab.

“The Swordfish initiative and the Global 6000 aircraft are truly a perfect match,” says Stéphane Leroy, Vice President of Specialised Aircraft at Bombardier.

“The redundancy built into the baseline Global 6000 aircraft – such as the four variable frequency generators as well as an auxiliary power unit and RAM air turbine generator – ensures safety and reliability on MPA missions. Other features, such as the revolutionary Bombardier Vision flight deck, reduce pilot workload for a safer, more efficient experience and the head-up display and MultiScan weather radar provide comfort, control and enhanced situational awareness for pilots.

Most importantly, its advanced and flexible wing design contributes to a smooth ride, reducing the effects of turbulence on both the crew and on-board equipment. These features are very important when one considers the Swordfish can stay on station for over 11 hours at 200 nautical miles from base.”

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Evan P

I wonder how it will compare to the P8s if it is built?


Global 6000 = 24t empty, 20t fuel, 3t payload, 12,000km, $144US each. Price based on Raytheon Sentinal and converted to USD.

Poseidon = 63t empty, 14t fuel, 9t payload, 8,000km, $256US each.

Take your pick.


The fact swordfish is developed on a business jet platform shows UK made a bad choice with Nimrod airframe for its original MPA replacement. As soon as they new there was no commonality in the Airframes it should have been canned and something like the BAe146 chosen which was in production at the time would have been a cheaper option.


Technology maybe hadn’t progressed enough when Nimrod mk 2 was ordered to fit the sensors on a smaller airframe otherwise it would have made sense to order it along with the Sentinal. I think a good chunk of that bombardier jet is made in Belfast. Plus back then BAE knew labour where a soft touch for rising costs.


The beauty of the Nimrod, was that it was relatively fast and had a really good loiter time. It also had a bomb bay that rivaled the Lancaster in size and capacity. At the time the MR4 was a leap above the Orions. It was the airframe that let down the project, as each one was different so the replacement wings were bespoke to each aircraft, which massively ramped up the cost. Although I appreciate the 146, I don’t think it would have been as good as the Nimrod. The reason I say this is that the belly was really… Read more »


As I understand BAe had already studied a stretched 2 engine 146 with better range, they needed customers, they didn’t join the dots. The 146 seems to be fairing quite well as firebomber in the US, several now converted, seem to have good low level performance for dropping fire retardants. There’s also a cargo version with large cargo door in the rear of the fuselage. There doesn’t appear to be an issue chopping around the a/f. Will admit the belly is close to the ground though although the 737 is also quite close the ground compared to other similar sized… Read more »


An ideal low end mpa would be the textron scorpion, low cost, good loiter time for an aircraft of its size and most importantly it had already Been trialled with the thales i-master maritime surveillance radar during an raf/rn test. I bet we could get a good price for a dozen or 2 as launch customer and a good capability increase to boot.

David E Flandry

What about the Scorpion’s ASW capabilities? Other than radar and perhaps a MAD how many sonobuoys could it carry?


I think the P8 is a good deal – and am surprised at the stats presented by Tim.

Given the bombardiers are at least part built in the UK (Belfast) and we could get double the amount for the same/similar price it does seem to be a bit silly to order 9 of something when we need 16 and there is an option to purchase a very similar product in the correct volumes for the same/very similar cost.

I think the Bombardier is more than adequate for our means, especially as it is replacing – nothing…


I am not so sure. One of the issues with the Nimrod was that the fuselage was not really big enough to carry many operators (especially given the size of the equipment back then). The P8 has a good size cabin while the Bombardier is pretty small in comparison. I suppose it all depends on the use cases. I suspect the P8 will be better for the UK use case.

Saying that, this Saab effort looks good and I hope it is at least assessed as an option.


Perhaps we should cancel P8 and buy 9 wedgetail instead and then order 16 of these.

That would net /net give us a great capability wouldn’t it

Winner winner chicken dinner

Not going to happen though


They are different aircraft for different purposes…


understood lee

just wondering from a commercial point of view whether it would be worth moving our order from P8 to wedge tail (still Boeing) and perhaps ordering more of the cheaper Saab product (if Tims’ cost analysis is broadly correct).

I read a lot on this forum that we need 16 MPA’s and this is a way we can have 16 MPA’s and 9 or so Wedgetails.

nothing more than that – moving the money around to get best value for the UK (Bombardiers will be built in Belfast won’t they?)


Bae wanted to build an Airbus based MPA instead of Nimrod 4, but politicians overruled. Would have sold a bunch.

John Clark

The Nimrod MR4 was a superb aircraft on paper. Streets ahead of anything else, but as has been said many times before, the whole program was utterly flawed and extremely badly managed by BAE systems and the Labour Government of the day. The plug should have been pulled 6 months in when they realised every airframe was dimentionaly different and destructive testing of retired airframes proved that they would have to be vertually rebuilt to make them sound. This program staggered on for years, swallowing more and more money as BAE tried their best to put lipstick on a pig.… Read more »