SAAB is actively marketing its new business jet-sized Swordfish multi-role maritime patrol aircraft which it hopes will offer a competitive alternative to larger platforms. BILL READ FRAeS reports from Linkoping in Sweden.  


Saab's Global 600 platform Swordfish MPA can be used for both military and civilian missions. (Saab)

Swedish aerospace and defence company Saab has introduced the new Swordfish maritime patrol aircraft (MPA). Based on the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet, the aircraft is fitted with the latest in sensor technology for enhance maritime domain awareness. Saab is no stranger to the ISR market and has already developed the GlobalEye surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft based on the Global 6000. “70% of the development work on the Swordfish is in common with the GlobalEye,” said Emilien Saindon, Head of Sales & Marketing, Airborne ISR at Saab.

The Swordfish advantage

The Swordfish has a range of up to 5,200nm. (Saab)

Saab lists a number of advantages that it claims the Swordfish has over its competitors. Being based on a long-range biz-jet platform means that the Swordfish can be used for long endurance missions with a potential range of up to 5,200nm and a service ceiling of up to 37,000ft. It has a maximum cruise speed of 450kt or a long-range cruise of 360kt. This would allow 11.5 hours on station with a transit distance of 200nm or 7.3 hours on station with a transit distance of

The Swordfish comes with a range of customised equipment for special mission operations, including:

* AESA (active electronically scanned array) 360° multi-mode radar
* multi-statics acoustic system
* HD quality EO/IR (electro-optical/infrared systems) sensor with integrated laser payload
* AIS (aeronautical information service), IFF (identification friend or foe) and DF (direction finder) systems
* SATCOM and tactical data links
* Four weapon hard points
* MAD (magnetic anomaly detector) boom

Should it come under attack, the Swordfish can defend itself with an electronic warfare and self-protection suite.

In addition Saab also offers training, support and services options

Multi mission platform

The external configuration of the Swordfish. (Saab)

In addition to both land and sea maritime, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and C4ISTAR (command, control, communications, computers, information/intelligence, surveillance, targeting acquisition and reconnaissance) missions, SAAB is also marketing the Swordfish as a platform for anti-piracy and border control. The aircraft could also be used for such tasks as long-range search and rescue, combat search and rescue, maritime counter terrorism and special forces support. The Swordfish does not have to be just a passive observer but can also be used in combat scenarios, including anti-submarine and anti-surface unit warfare.

The aircraft is fitted with four hard points under the wings which can carry anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and drop pods for search-and-rescue missions. The design has recently been modified to increase the number of armaments it can carry. “The pylons can now carry 2,000lb,” said Gary Shand. “The Swordfish can now carry up to six Eurotorp MU90 lightweight torpedo for anti-submarine warfare. Alternatively, it can carry RBS 15EF air-launched anti-ship missiles or a combination of different weapons. If the aircraft is being used for a search and rescue mission, each pylon can carry a Skad rescue pod containing a life raft and other equipment which can be dropped next to survivors in the sea.  

Room for five inside

The interior of the Swordfish includes room for up to five operators and a sonobuoy storage and launch area. (Saab)

The cockpit is fitted with Bombardier’s Vision Flightdeck while there are five operator work stations, together with a crew rest and mission planning area. The work stations are fitted with 30in flat screen displays powered by a track data fusion engine (TDFE) which combines data into a clear and accurate air situation picture, reducing operator workload and enabling faster responses to various situations.

At the rear of the aircraft is an area for sonobuoy stowage with 112 slots for NATO standard A, F and G sonobuoy sizes from Ultra UK including active, passive and multi-static types. These can be launched using 2 x 10 rotary sonobuoy launchers and two pressurised single launchers which can also handle A, F and G sizes plus. The single launchers are suitable for both high and low altitude drops and could also be used for release of other stories, such as smoke markers.

The rear fuselage includes two sonobuoy launchers plus storage capacity for up to 112 standard size sonobuoys. (Saab)

The rear of the fuselage can be fitted with a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) boom from CAE for submarine detection which, Saab claims, is almost ten times lighter than systems such as AN/ASQ 233A, AN/ASQ 508.

There is also a lavatory and a galley. “These are vital for long-range missions,” joked Shand. “We have heard from one air force which ordered a rival MPA design that it did not come equipped with a teapot!”

New kid on the block

The hard points under the Swordfish wing can carry a variety of different loads. (Saab)

When the programme was first announced in February last year, Saab offered the MPA systems for both Bombardier’s Global 6000 business jet platform and its Q400 regional turboprop. However, the main interest has been in the jet-powered platform.

Saab is hoping that the Swordfish will compete with existing MPA designs using its advantages of lower operational costs and multi-mission adaptability. In addition to competing with the Swordfish’s capabilities and systems, Saab is also planning to offer potential customers technology transfer and local production deals. “The Swordfish is a cost-effective solution,” states Saindon.

At present, there have been orders for the Swordfish but Saab is confident that its new MPA can compete with existing international manufacturers, such as Boeing’s 737-based P-8 Poseidon and Kawsaki’s P-1. Saab also believes that the Asia-Pacific is an important market and is talking to a number of potential customers in that region.

Bill Read
16 May 2017

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