FARNBOROUGH 2008: Israel’s latest spyplane appears at Farnborough

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As tension mounts between Israel and Iran, IAI is displaying one of Israel’s most capable intelligence-gathering platforms at Farnborough.

The aircraft is a heavily modified derivative of the G550 Gulfstream, known locally as the G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft or as the Nachshon Eitam (Pioneer Fish Eagle).

Displayed before local journalists at Ben-Gurion International Airport last week in response to Iranian military exercises and missile tests, the aircraft was described by IAI spokesman Assaf Darga as having “the most sophisticated early warning and intelligence devices to date and is capable of reaching all destinations required by the air force.”

The aircraft is equipped with the Elta EL/W-2085 system, which has been described as a compact version of the Phalcon AEW radar fitted to some Boeing 707s and Il-76s. Like the full-sized Phalcon, this new system uses antennas at the nose and tail, with large slab sided arrays on the fuselage sides. Together these give 360° coverage without the complication and drag of an E-3 Sentry type rotodome above the fuselage. The aircraft is believed to carry six operators, and has ESM antennas under the tail and wingtips, and above the nose, with a Satcom array atop the vertical tail. Radar, ESM and Comint data is collected and fused to give a fully correlated air picture.

 g550 caew

The new aircraft’s structural, aerodynamic and power modifications, including two additional generators and a low-drag liquid cooling system, were made by Gulfstream prior to delivery, and the mission equipment was then installed in country by IAI’s Bedek Aviation Group.

The IDF/AF has received four special missions configured Gulfstreams, three in this AEW configuration, and the fourth operating as a dedicated SIGINT platform with an IAI EltaEL/1-3001 Signals Intelligence system. This latter aircraft has a distinctive ventral canoe fairing housing direction finding equipment and receivers. All four Gulfstreams are based at Nevatim air base in the Negev, and are understood to be operated by No.122 Squadron. They replaced ageing Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes in Israeli air force service.

The type is understood to have been offered to the Republic of Singapore Air Force.