The United Arab Emirates Air Force is to upgrade its two Saab Erieye airborne early-warning aircraft and will buy two new multi-mission systems on a Bombardier Global 6000 platform in a deal valued by the customer at $1.27 billion.

The contract, which was announced yesterday and signed during the first day of the Dubai Airshow, will see Saab fit new sensors and mission systems to the UAE's two Saab 340-based Erieyes, while the sensor suite for the Global 6000s will be different. No firm timetable has been revealed, but Abdulla al Hashimi, executive director for UAE's military communications at the Airshow, said he expects the new aircraft to be delivered "within two years, maybe."

"We are not going into detail, but it's a new platform," said Håkan Buskhe, CEO of Saab. "Increased endurance, of course, but also the suite of sensors is new, and well tested. The UAE will be the launch customer for this. The capability of the sensors and the integration will totally be a game-changer for surveillance capability going forward."

Saab promises air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-sea modes and functionality on the new system, which will become part of its product portfolio and will be made available to other potential customers. "We will, of course, focus first on delivery to the UAE Air Force," Buskhe added. 

Precise details of the new configuration have not yet been made public. The primary Erieye sensor is expected to leverage Saab's work on Gallium Nitride radar technology. A secondary radar, to provide a maritime mode, is carried in a fairing beneath the fuselage. Imagery released by Saab shows a turreted EO/IR sensor beneath the nose. 

Hashimi said that Saab had won the contract over other potential bidders—believed to have included Northrop Grumman's E-2D and the Boeing Wedgetail— because "this was the best."