Two new Israeli advanced radar surveillance aircraft were used extensively in the Gaza campaign. The Conformal Airborne Early Warning & Control (CAEW) aircraft is a Gulfstream G550 modified with three large active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. The new radars have no moving parts and it can be used for very precise definition of small aerial and ground objects.
Israeli Air Force (IAF) officials say the aircraft were used intensively for missions that included airborne early warning, air situation picture generation and air combat command and control. Over the Gaza Strip, the IAF faced the daunting task of simultaneously deconflicting dozens of UAV orbits, scores of manned strike aircraft and helicopters, medical evacuations, artillery fire and missiles launched from navy ships.
The prime contractor, developer and integrator is ELTA Systems. The first aircraft was delivered in Feb. 2008 and the second followed in May. One of them will be on show at the Aero India 2009 Air Show at mid-month at Yelahanka airbase, Bengaluru, India.
The system on the aircraft includes dual-band AESA radar and IFF, electronic surveillance and a self-protection system. It also carries a communications suite designed for network centric operations. The CAEW is a stablemate of the Special Electronic Mission Aircraft, also based on the G550, that entered service in 2006. During the Gaza operation, it provided realtime electronic order of battle information – essentially plotting what is emitting in an area of interest and from where. Extended surveillance allows communications network mapping, intercept, and traffic analyses. A third program for the family of aircraft is the fielding of an advanced Air-to-Ground Mission Aircraft.