has decided to replace its four U.S. E2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning
aircraft by 2010. It will begin replacing their aircraft with Gulfstream 550
aircraft equipped with the Israeli Phalcon radar system. Last year, Israel put its first
new-generation AWACS (Airborne Early Warning Aircraft) into service, one that
used a long range business jet (the 40 ton Gulfstream G500) and Israeli made
radar and electronics. These systems go for about $375 million each.
The Israeli AWACS uses a
Phalcon conformal (it is built into the lower fuselage) phased array radar,
SIGINT equipment (to capture and analyze enemy electronic transmissions) and a
communications system that can handle satellite signals as well as a wide array
of other transmissions. There are six personnel on board to handle all this
gear, plus the flight crew.
The Gulfstream G550, is an
upgrade of the G500, and can stay in the
air for over twelve hours per sortie, and
fly as high as 51,000 feet. The G500/550 is a larger version of the
Gulfstream G400, which the U.S. Army uses as the C-20H transport. The U.S.
Coast Guard, Air Force and Navy also use militarized Gulfstreams. The 96 foot
long aircraft has two engines and was built for long flights (over 11,000
kilometers). Current Gulfstream G500s cost about $40 million each.
The Phalcon radar is, in
some respects, superior to the one used in the American AWACS. For example,
Phalcon uses a phased array radar (thousands of small radar transmitters are
fitted underneath the aircraft). The phased array radar, in combination with
the latest, most powerful computers, and other antennas for picking up a
variety of signals, enables Phalcon to be more aware of what electronic
equipment (airborne or on the ground) is operating up to 400 kilometers away.
The phased array radar allows positions of aircraft on operator screens to be
updated every 2-4 seconds, rather than every 20-40 seconds as is the case on
the United States AWACS (which uses a rotating radar in a radome atop the
aircraft.) The first Phalcon system was fitted on a Boeing 707, although
somewhat limited versions could be put onto a C-130. On a larger aircraft, you
can have more computers, and other electronics, as well as more human
operators. But the major advantage of the Phalcon is that it is a more modern
design. The U.S. AWACS is over twenty years old and has undergone upgrades to
the original equipment.
The Israeli air force
operates six Phalcon aircraft (using Boeing 707 airframes). Singapore will
receive its first G550 AWACs later this year.