The Israeli Air Force is about to take delivery of the first of three Eitam aircraft, the nation's newest Airborne Early Warning (AEW) system. Developed by Elta Systems and mounted in Gulfstream G550 business jets, the long-range intelligence, target tracking and operational control system will generate detailed aerial pictures deep inside enemy territory while warning attack formations of approaching threats.

Defense and industry sources say Elta has completed integration and validation of its EL/W-2085 AEW system on the G550 platform and is now conducting final flight tests prior to next month's planned transfer to IAF users.

The EL/W-2085 AEW system is a long-range, high-performance, multisensor AEW that combines airborne early warning, tactical surveillance of airborne and surface targets, and the gathering of signal intelligence.
The four sensors feeding the AEW system are radar, IFF, ESM/ELINT and CSM/COMINT. The data generated by all of the sensors is continuously cross-correlated. This data is then combined with an automatically initiated active search by one sensor for specific targets detected by other sensors. A radar with conformal phased array antennas provides simultaneous coverage and instantaneous focus on selected targets. The advanced radar has several conformal phased array antennas that are mounted on the fuselage of the aircraft and provide up to a full 360-degree coverage.

A special mode for maneuvering and high-value targets employs a high scan rate and beam shapes optimized for each target to ensure tracking performance. Verification beams sent at newly detected targets eliminate false alarms. Track initiation is achieved in two to four seconds. By transmitting extra long dwells in selected sectors, an extended detection range is achieved.

The Eitam replaces E-2C aircraft retired in the 1990s and will join the IAF's new fleet of Gulfstream-based signals intelligence planes, operated by the service's 122 Nachshon special mission squadron. Due to its long-range detection capabilities, the IAF should be able to operate Eitam on most missions from the safety of its own airspace, without having to venture into enemy territory. The aircraft is designed to remain airborne for more than 10 hours at relatively safe altitudes exceeding 40,000 feet.