NORTHROP GRUMMAN is proposing that the Gulf Collaboration Council (GCC) states collectively purchase and operate a combined standing force of its E-2C Hawkeye airborne-early-warning (AEW) aircraft, to provide additional AEW support in the region.

GCC states, which include the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain, all have draft AEW requirements, but the funding and supporting of a purchase of such an aircraft independently remains problematic. The GCC also includes Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar.

Some GCC states also have requirements for border/battlefield-surveillance aircraft. These are liable to be met by the purchase of smaller aircraft than the Hawkeye.

A possible contender in this class is the Eagle special-missions derivative of the Pilatus PC-XII, which was unveiled at Dubai. The aircraft, developed in collaboration with Westinghouse, is aimed at meeting tactical-reconnaissance and border-surveillance requirements. Countries interested in the idea include Kuwait and Oman. The aircraft can be fitted with a variety of surveillance sensors mounted in an under fuselage "canoe", along with a dual-mode electro-optical sensor package. The sensor suite includes the Westinghouse WF-160DS infra-red and low-light colour-television camera, along with the Westinghouse Tactical Endurance Synthetic Aperture Radar.

Northrop Grumman is understood to be offering its E-2C as a "national asset" to the GCC states, to be financed and operated collaboratively. A purchase of four E-2Cs would be sufficient to provide the GCC states with an adequate AEW capability.

Fokker, with the Kingbird MkII; Saab, with an AEW variant of the Saab 340; and, possibly, Lockheed Martin, with the AEW variant of its C-130, would also be expected to address any emerging GCC programme.

An E-2C unit would be capable of providing additional AEW coverage in support of the Royal Saudi Air Force's Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System Aircraft.

Source: Flight International