AEW-themed C-295 clears flight test phase

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Airbus Military has completed initial flight test activities on an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) derivative of its C-295 medium transport, as radar supplier Elta Systems anticipates a first sale of the developmental system.

Work on the project was revealed in May 2011, before Airbus Military announced the Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary as its programme partner at the Paris Air Show the following month. The European manufacturer also exhibited a radome-equipped demonstrator at the event.

"We have completed the flight trials and matured the aerodynamic configuration of the radome," said Fernando Ciria, Airbus Military's head of marketing and development for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. This activity has indicated that a C-295 modified for the AEW&C mission could provide an on-station endurance of up to 8h, operating at a maximum altitude of between 20,000ft (6,100m) and 24,000ft, he said.

© Airbus Military

Up to six operator consoles would be installed, using Airbus Military's fully integrated tactical system mission suite, with Elta to provide its active electronically scanned array radar and related equipment.

Ciria cited the C-295's large cabin, robust design and reliability as supporting the proposed new role, and said operators could acquire other versions of the same type to meet their air transport, maritime patrol and anti-surface/anti-submarine warfare requirements.

Elta already offers AEW&C conversions of the Gulfstream G550 business jet and Ilyushin Il-76 transport, and completed deliveries of both types in 2011 under orders with respective customers the Israeli and Indian air forces. By also equipping the C-295, the company hopes to enter a new market segment, said Avishai Izhakian, deputy general manager marketing, business development and sales for its airborne systems and radars division.

"This solution can be purchased by many more countries not accessible to us with higher-performance systems," Izhakian told IQPC's AEW and Battle Management conference in London on 17 January. "The radar is currently under advanced development, and we hope to have our first customer soon," he said, adding that production deliveries could start within three to four years of a deal being signed.