It was at the beginning of the 1990s that Ericsson Radar Electronics began development of the Erieye (“Ericsson’s eye”) radar system. The goal was to create an inexpensive Swedish radar system. The technology was easier to install on conventional aircraft because the radar antenna is immobile, which is uncommon in radar contexts. The radar beam is instead electronically controlled from a transmitter. The technology provides lower costs since the system can be installed on smaller, conventional aircraft.
In the first deliveries, the cigar-shaped antenna was mounted on a Saab 340. With the 192 embedded transmitter and receiver modules, coverage could be attained in all directions. Moreover, the radar could be directed towards target areas of special interest.
Another benefit is that low-flying planes are very difficult to detect other than in the immediate vicinity of radar stations on the ground. Erieye’s range is approximately 450 kilometres. This means that a radar plane at high altitude over Gothenburg can detect aircraft in Stockholm.
Until the contract with the Swedish Armed Forces was signed in February 1993, the system had cost SEK 700 in development costs. The order for six complete systems and aircraft meant SEK 1.2 billion for Ericsson and SEK 500 million for Saab. Cultivation in the foreign markets had already begun, including in Australia and Brazil.
Major order from Brazil
After several years of discussion, the contract with Brazil was finalised in 1997. The order was valued at SEK 1.1 billion and entailed that Ericsson could employ upwards of 200 new engineers.
Erieye was to be used in a Brazilian project to monitor the Amazonian jungle from the air. One of the objectives was to detect drug smugglers and their illegal air traffic. The government also wanted a better picture of illegal mining, devastation of the rainforest and other activities destructive to the environment, but also better monitoring of climate and natural disasters, such as forest fires. The idea for the project had arisen in conjunction with the UN’s Rio conference concerning the global environment.
GlobalEye – a radar system for the future
Over the years, Saab has continued development in the field of airborne surveillance and the latest is the launch of the GlobalEye system. It combines Saab’s entirely new radar system Erieye ER (Extended Range) with Bombardier’s advanced jet plane, the Global 6000.
GlobalEye is the first system on the global market that can detect and follow targets at a substantial distance and handle surveillance in the air, on the ground and at sea, simultaneously and from one and the same platform. With Erieye ER radar, the range for detecting and following targets has significantly increased compared with existing airborne radar systems, and the system can even detect very small targets.
The GlobalEye system can follow air and sea targets that would otherwise be very difficult to detect, including aircraft with stealth technology, cruise missiles and submarine periscopes, even in environments with extensive interference. Saab’s first GlobalEye customer is the United Arab Emirates, which in November of 2015 ordered a version of the system designated Swing Role Surveillance System. GlobalEye is the result of extensive investments in research and development that Saab has made since the acquisition of Ericsson Microwave Systems in 2006, and in particular, in the years since 2009.