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Mon, Oct 02, 2006

Israel Now Flying New Phalcon AWACS

Israeli Radar Plane Superior To USAF E-3 In Some Ways

The State of Israel is now flying a state-of the-art Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) surveillance aircraft that in some ways is superior to the Boeing E-3's flown by the US Air Force.

The new aircraft, based on a Gulfstream G-550 platform, is called the Eitam which means "Sea Eagle" in Hebrew. Israeli officials marked the arrival of the first aircraft at a ceremony attended by numerous US and Israeli dignitaries Sept. 19 at Lod Air Force Base near Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. This is the first of three aircraft scheduled to be delivered over the next three years. The $50 million Gulfstream, considered the most prestigious and luxurious of all executive business aircraft, departed Savannah, GA and refueled in Canada and Ireland before arriving at its new home.

Designed to offer a long range supplement to Israel's fleet of smaller, less capable surveillance models, Israel plans to put the Phalcon to work almost immediately. A long-range detection capability is considered crucial in light of Iran's publicly stated policy of wiping Israel off the map -- the Phalcon provides an effective  tool for monitoring the Iranian war machine.

Designed and built by Israel Aircraft Industries and its subsidiary, Elta Systems, the Israeli AWACS carries a home-grown, conformal phased-array radar, and other equipment to capture and analyze enemy electronic transmissions. This electronic package fits underneath the Gulfstream fuselage and is designed to be aerodynamically neutral. It also has a communications system that can handle satellite signals as well as a wide array of other transmissions. There are six personnel on board to handle all this gear, plus the flight crew, according the intelligence review publication, Strategy Page.

As ANN reported, Israel has already sold the same system to India with the equipment installed on a Russian-built Ilyushin Il-76. It is also offering the Phalcon system to South Korea in competition with Boeing which is offering a phased array version of its own using a B737 platform.

Several years ago, Israel had planned to sell an earlier model of the Phalcon to China, but under strenuous US and NATO objections, the deal fell through.

According to Strategy Page, the Phalcon radar is, in some respects, superior to that used by the Americans. Using phased array radar instead of a slowly rotating dome, the Phalcon can update operators every two to four seconds instead of 20 to 40 seconds as is the case on the E-3 version of the venerable Boeing 707.

Israel has not had an effective long range early-warning system since it retired its earlier fleet twelve years ago. The Eitam has a loitering time of twelve hours and is expected to cruise at 35,000 feet.

"These projects are meant to provide us with the most advanced radars in the world," Israel Air Force (IAF) commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer Shkeidy said at the Sept. 19 ceremony. "The aircraft is meant to significantly bolster the professional command and control solution and the expansion of the operational eyes of Israel."

Shkeidy added, "Throughout the years of Israel's existence, defense of the skies has been the IAF's primary mission. Over the years, however, the threats have changed... and the potential for an existential threat to the state is taking form while the bells of peace are still, to our misfortune, far away."

The general never uttered the word Iran.



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