Airbus Military and Elta Systems signed a major deal on Tuesday to complete the development of an airborne early warning and control variant of the C-295 medium transport, a mock-up of which is making its public debut in the show's static park.
The surprise development will combine an S-band active electronically scanned array radar now being developed by Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta with Airbus Military's fully integrated tactical system mission equipment. The resulting surveillance asset will have six onboard operator stations and an unrefuelled endurance of around 8h.
The companies, which began discussions over the collaboration around one year ago, also outlined a target to offer a production system "soon" for around half the cost of a current top-end AEW aircraft.
"This co-operation will provide the market with a highly efficient and affordable solution," said Airbus Military managing director Domingo Ureña, who signed the memorandum of understanding with Elta president Nisim Hadas.
The pact covers remaining development activities and the joint marketing of the C-295 AEW. The aircraft will be offered for traditional military tasks, but also for missions such as homeland security, border surveillance and event protection.
Airbus Military first flew a prototype of the aircraft with a dummy 6m (20ft)-diameter rotodome installed on 7 June, before bringing it to Le Bourget. Currently a fixed structure, this would be rotated on a production system to enable the AESA array to provide a 360° surveillance coverage.
Avishai Izhakian from Elta's airborne systems division said the new system would leverage the company's expertise in adapting the Gulfstream G550 for the AEW mission. The modified C-295 will also have identification friend-or-foe equipment, communications and electronic intelligence systems and also be offered with an under-slung synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indication payload, he said.
"We are redefining the AEW market. It's a new concept for new challenges," he said. "Our collaboration enables us to bring a very innovative and attractive solution to the market."