Massively increasing weapons payload
Saab has modified its newest SWORDFISH maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) offering to include increased weapons and sonobuoy capacity.
Speaking to media at the company’s Linkoping, Sweden site on 10 May, Gary Shand, Director of Marketing and Sales for Airborne ISR, Saab, explained that the aircraft will now be able to carry 6,800lb of external payload, an increase on the 4,200lb it was targeting when the product was launched in February 2016.
“We have massively increased our weapons payload,” Shand said. “Each pylon can now carry much more than before.”
This can consist of six lightweight torpedoes, namely the EuroTorp Mu90, which Shand says is more than competing systems can carry, although he acknowledged that an anti-submarine mission would not necessarily require such a large number of torpedoes for one sortie.However, the option is there.
“We’re at six, but that’s not to say that we can’t carry eight,” Shand added.
SWORDFISH was first offered with two 1,700lb and two 400lb weapon mounts, but can now carry four 1,700lb weapons. The payload allowance includes the ability to carry Saab’s RBS15 EF anti-ship missile.
“You don’t need a bomb bay anymore – you can carry these externally,” Shand said.
The increased sonobuoy capability, meanwhile, will allow the aircraft to have a better chance of finding modern submarines, Shand said. There are now 112 slots on the aircraft, up from less than 100 as previously offered, although the exact number of sonobuys that can be carried will depend on the type and size of the sensor.
“Our competitors are limited by the number they can load,” Shand added.
There is also an option for Swordfish to carry four Skad rescue pods – two under each wing – in support of search and rescue missions, which can include life rafts and stores.
Saab has also added a magnetic anomaly detector, or MAD, developed by CAE, which it says is ten times lighter than legacy systems of this type. The two companies are currently determining the electro-magnetic signature required, and Shand said that this feature is a much-wanted capability for additional submarine detection.
In February 2016, Saab launched the Bombardier Global 6000-based SWORDFISH MPA, and also introduced a Q400 turboprop option too. While the company claims that the system is still platform-agnostic, Saab is focusing all of its marketing on the jet option, and has acknowledged that there is a shift in requirements away from turboprop MPAs.
The Global 6000 will provide a range of 1,000nm, and can operate for 7.5h on station in a standard configuration, Shand noted.
Saab says the aircraft is 70% developed, and although it is not planning on producing an example until a customer orders it, it adds that it could be delivered – including developmental testing and certification – within three years of being ordered.
The company has identified the Asia-Pacific as a “critical” market for the type, as there are a number of requirements on-going in the region.