The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) plans to acquire three new Saab 2000-based Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft from Swedish defense major, Saab.
As per the sources, the first new Erieye AEW&C will be delivered in December, with the final two due for 2018.
These will join the PAF’s three existing Erieye AEW&C and four Shaanxi Y-8 based ZDK03 AEW&C ‘Karakoram Eagle’ bought from China resulting in a total of 10 AEW&C aircraft by the end of this decade.
The Erieye is a critical piece of the PAF’s air surveillance and early warning strategy. Centered on an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, the Erieye provides stand-off range situational awareness to networked airborne and land-based assets. Saab positions the Erieye as an open platform, one that can communicate in Link-11, Link-16 and/or the end-user’s proprietary data-link protocol.
In August 2012, three of the four Erieye were heavily damaged in a terrorist attack on Minhas Air Base, which was at the time housing the No. 3 AEW&C Squadron. By 2016, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) managed to restore two of the damaged aircraft. This new Erieye order will effectively replace the written-off unit as well as raise the PAF’s Erieye fleet to its originally planned force of six.
Specifics, such as whether the PAF selected the Erieye or new gallium nitride (GaN)-based AESA Erieye ER (which has 70% more range than the Erieye) or if these new aircraft include synthetic aperture radars (SAR) for ground surveillance and target acquisition, are not known. Interestingly, the recent Saab press statement mentions “border surveillance, search and rescue operations and … tracking terrorism” as use cases, this could be a possible indication of SAR and/or electro-optical and infrared equipment.