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IAI lifts lid on Gulfstream Phalcon AEW&C details

ANDREW DOYLE/PETER LA FRANCHI / BUSAN Israeli manufacturer goes head-to-head with Boeing "Wedgetail" in South Korean contest

Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) has unveiled details of its Gulfstream G550-based airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, now on order for the Israeli air force, with a large-scale model on display for the first time at the Korea Air Show in Busan last week.

The "pocket" AEW&C aircraft will carry four fixed active phased arrays for the Elta Phalcon radar, to provide 360 degree coverage, necessitating extensive fuselage modifications.

The model confirms two main arrays will be fitted on the sides of the forward fuselage in an arrangement similar to the Phalcon installation on a Boeing 707 undertaken by IAI for the Chilean air force (Flight International, 10 -16 June).

Downward sloping nose and tail-mounted radomes, similar to those on the unsuccessful BAe/Marconi Nimrod AEW&C aircraft, would house forward- and rear-facing radar arrays.

A satellite communications antenna would be installed inside a large blister at the top of the fin. The existing G550 roof spine has been increased in height. This change may be intended to assist with the treatment of interference between six mid-fuselage mounted communications antennas. A further six antennas are located on the roof of the forward fuselage, ahead of the spine, while three others are located on the forward aircraft underbelly.

The nose radome supports a large electronic support measures (ESM) blister. Additional ESM sensors will be fitted to small wingtip pods and beneath the tail radar blister. IAI says the overall electronic-warfare self-protection system is derived from Elta subsystems being fitted to the Royal Australian Air Force's Boeing 737 IGW Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft.

The Gulfstream Phalcon AEW&C aircraft will have six operator stations in the rear section of the cabin, with the majority of the forward cabin being used to support radar electronics.

IAI says that the aircraft is likely to incorporate new generators to power the four radar arrays but will retain existing aircraft engines.

The increased weight of the G550 and the drag induced by the fuselage modifications will reduce maximum ceiling to 41,000ft (12,500m), while endurance will be around 10h, the company says. The aircraft could be modified to support in-flight refuelling to extend mission time.

IAI is pitching the aircraft at the South Korean air force's planned relaunch of its E-X AEW&C project. However Boeing's Wedgetail is widely seen as favourite.