DN - Defence Notes

IMDEX Asia: Saab looks to Asia-Pacific market for Swordfish

12th May 2017 - 11:05 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Hong Kong

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Saab, which has been attempting to bait several Asia-Pacific air forces with its Swordfish maritime patrol aircraft, has sharpened its offering.

One improvement confirmed by the company's recent engineering studies is that the Bombardier Global 6000-based jet can carry greater payloads on its four under-wing hardpoints.

Richard Hjelmberg, Saab's head of Asia-Pacific marketing and sales for airborne ISR, told Shephard that the outer hardpoints are now certified to carry 1,700lb (771kg) each.

As a result, the Swordfish could carry up to six lightweight torpedoes, a mix of torpedoes and air-to-surface missiles (eg RBS15F ER) and/or Survival Kit Air Droppable (SKAD) rescue pods.

Another significant advancement is the installation of CAE's compact MAD-XR for magnetic anomaly detection which weighs just 3.7kg. Saab said it represents 'a major improvement from legacy systems like the ASQ-233/A or ASQ-508'. Hjelmberg described it as a 'big step up' for the Swordfish.

The platform offers 112 slots for NATO-standard A, F and G sonobuoys. Overall, it can carry a mix of 200+ sonobuoys, which is more than the Boeing P-8A Poseidon. Additionally, two pressurised launchers allow sonobuoys to be dropped from higher altitudes than before.

The Swordfish's acoustic system is General Dynamics Mission Systems – Canada's UYS-505 coupled with Saab's next-generation C4I mission system. The Swordfish offers a 5,200nm range and maximum cruise speed of 450kt. Indeed, the aircraft outperforms the P-8A in cruising speed, range and endurance.

Perhaps even more importantly, Saab touts the Swordfish as being two-thirds the price of a P-8 and 50% cheaper in terms of though-life support.

Hjelmberg said all relevant Swordfish components had been tested and could be readily integrated. The OEM believes it could deliver the Swordfish, which shares 70% commonality with the GlobalEye airborne surveillance aircraft currently in production, into a customer's hands roughly three years after a contract is inked.

While Saab refused to comment on specific formal requirements in Southeast Asia, Singapore and Malaysia are two militaries known to be looking for maritime patrol aircraft.

The company also responded to a New Zealand RfI seeking maritime patrol aircraft to replace six in-service Lockheed Martin P-3K2 Orions. Despite the US approving a potential $1.46 billion FMS for four P-8As on 28 April, Saab remains upbeat about its prospects.

Observers of the planned New Zealand purchase note that the quoted unit price makes these the most expensive P-8s ever. Furthermore, just four aircraft would seem inadequate to replace its six heavily used Orions.

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