One of the surprises of the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget last week was an announcement by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer and IAI/Elta of Israel that the two companies will partner to market a new airborne early warning (AEW) platform.
Known as the P600 AEW, the aircraft will be based on Embraer’s Praetor 600 executive jet and fitted with an Elta Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, with integrated Identification Friend Foe (IFF) capabilities, mounted on the top of the fuselage.
The Praetor 600 is a recent development of Embraer’s popular Legacy 500 business jet, which gained triple certification, from Brazil’s Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC – National Civil Aviation Agency), the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US, in May 2019.
The aircraft, in its executive jet configuration, is capable of accommodating up to 12 passengers and has a range in excess of 4,000 nautical miles (7,408 km), according to Embraer’s brochure figures. The aircraft operates in the ‘super mid-size’ business jet category and, although the Praetor program was only officially launched in October 2018, Embraer reports that production is already sold out through May 2020.
The P600 AEW is designed for a new segment of the AEW market and aimed at nations which cannot justify high-end surveillance platforms such as Boeing’s 737-based E-7 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft.
Under the co-operative program announced at Le Bourget on June 18, Embraer will be responsible for supplying the Praetor airframe as well as ground support, communications systems and aircraft integration. Elta will supply the radar, Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Electronic Warfare (EW) systems and systems integration.
Embraer said the P600 AEW can be configured with “the full range” of AEW&C sensor and control systems, including fourth-generation AESA radar, civil and military IFF, Electronic Support Measures/Electronic Intelligence (ESM/ELINT) with Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) capability, Command & Control, communications suite (including SATCOM), a datalink and “robust” self-protection systems.
“This aircraft delivers superior performance and flexibility that translates into the greatest value proposition in its category,” Jackson Schneider, President & CEO of Embraer Defense & Security, said. “It can easily be configured to match the customer needs and it can perform a wide variety of missions in a very efficient and cost-effective way.”
Discussions are presently underway with a number of potential customers, according to Embraer.
Embraer has a track record of producing niche AEW systems, beginning in 2002 with the delivery of five R-99A platforms, based on the company’s successful ERJ-145 regional jet and fitted with an Ericsson (now Saab) Erieye AESA radar, to the Brazilian Air Force. The aircraft and radar combination is also operated in small numbers by Greece and Mexico.
The five Brazilian Air Force aircraft, together with three remote-sensing R-99B variants, were acquired as part of the Brazilian Government’s Sistema de Vigilância da Amazônia (SIVAM - Amazon Surveillance System) program. The AEW&C aircraft were redesignated E-99 in 2008 and Embraer is currently upgrading the fleet to E-99M configuration, complete with an enhanced Erieye radar, mission systems, C² systems, EW suite, IFF system and provision for the next generation of Brazil’s sovereign datalink capability.