The Swedish air force is beginning to consider options for upgrading its Saab S100B Argus airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft as part of its network-centric warfare development plans.

Sweden is considering the upgrades needed to turn the platforms into nodes on the network. An initial net-centric capability is due to become operational in 2010.

Sweden's six Arguses are Ericsson Erieye-equipped Saab 340 regional turboprops that were acquired as gap-fillers, providing a radar picture for holes in the ground-based radar coverage, says Brig Gen Hakan Bergstrom, commander net-centric warfare.

The Erieye has proven more capable than planned, providing 400km-plus (210nm) coverage against the range of air and surface targets, he adds.

Unlike most AEW aircraft, however, the Argus does not carry radar operators, with the information datalinked to ground air defence control and command (C2) centres and to Saab JAS39 Gripen fighters.

Argus upgrade options include adapting the AEW system for international operations, putting operators on board the aircraft, equipping it with an integrated self-defence system and further developing the radar system, "which Ericsson says is possible", adds Bergstrom.

Two S100Bs leased to Greece to provide experience ahead of its Erieye-equipped Embraer EMB-145SAs becoming operational are fitted with operator stations. "We may keep these when they come back. It's a question to be answered," says Bergstrom.

On-board operators could also make the aircraft an airborne C2 node, although Bergstrom cautions: "This is not in our plans, we have not looked at this question yet."

Source: Flight International