G550 AEW Unveiled! – IAI’s CAEW Aircraft to Make a Public Debut at Farnborough


Israel Aerospace Industries will debut at the upcoming Farnborough International airshow its latest version of the Conformal Airborne early Warning aircraft (CAEW), based on a special mission variant of the Gulfstream G550 business jet. In less than 18 months after the first modified ‘green’ G550 aircraft was delivered from Gulfstream, Elta delivered the first aircraft (in February 2008), the second followed in May this year. The two aircraft are already maintaining operational tempo of two missions a day, soon after achieving ‘initial operational capability’.

According to Nissim Hadas, general manager of IAI’s Elta Systems, the prime contractor for the program, the new CAEW reflects the company’s advanced systems approach, based on vertically integrated system of systems, based on Elta-unique technologies and know-how developed in-house. The CAEW is a member of a family of new special mission aircraft, which also includes the AISIS airborne integrated SIGINT system and the MARS, an Airborne SAR platform. The first two are already operational with the Israel Air Force and the MARS is also part of the IAF’s long term strategy.

According to Avishai Izhakian, general manager of Elta’s AEW plant the conformal phased-array radar configuration utilized with the CAEW offers “the optimal configuration for high performance at the most affordable life cycle cost.” The aircraft can remain on station for nine hours at maximum altitude, operating at a range of about 100 nautical miles from its base. The aircraft is fitted with four AESA radar planes, two S band AESA systems are positioned in fore, aft while two sides looking L-band arrays are covering port and starboard, effectively covering 360 degrees.

According to Izhakian, the G550 AEW platform can fly higher than its competitors such as the Boeing 737 and Saab 340 or Emb145 (Erieye) platforms, furthermore, it can generate significantly more missions, since its maintenance and support procedures are shorter.

The CAEW represents the third generation of phased array airborne radar technology developed at Elta Systems. Elta entered the world of phased array radars in the 1980s, implementing the technology with the Green Pine ballistic missile warning radar (part of the Arrow ATBM system). The same technology packaged as ‘Phalcon’ AEW radar, was installed on a modified Boeing 707 dubbed ‘Condor’, developed for the Chilean air force, which became the first operator of full-size phased array AEW system. This aircraft became operational in the mid 1990s. Soon after, China ordered three similar Phalcon radars, with the radars configured on Russian Il-76 aircraft.

However, encountering fierce US objection to the deal, Israel decided to terminate the program, leaving IAI with unclear future about its AEW thrust. “Despite the significant impact of the termination of this work, we managed to keep our employees and maintain the knowledge base to be able to continue and develop a second and third generations of the phased-array AEW technology we pioneered in the 1990s. ” said Nissim Hadas. The results of this effort were realized few years later, with the signature of a contract to supply IL-76TD AEW aircraft to India, fitted with a 11 meter elevated radom, and G550 based third generation CAEW to the Israel Air Force. Both versions are being delivered this year (2008). The first two CAEW aircraft were delivered in February and May and the first Il76 is scheduled for delivery in September 08. The remaining aircraft will be supplied in 2009-2012. Earlier this year the Singaporean Ministry of Defense announced that the Singapore Air Force will also receive several CAEW aircraft in the upcoming months.

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