Sweden to provide two Saab 340 AEW&C aircraft to Ukraine

Sweden to provide two Saab 340 AEW&C aircraft to Ukraine

With this capability at hand, Ukrainian forces will be able to shoot down 95 percent of targets

This is a truly historic moment, experts emphasize: Ukraine’s Armed Forces have dreamed of having such an aerial surveillance and control capability since the first days of Ukrainian independence

On May 29, 2024, the Swedish government unveiled its 16th and largest military aid package for Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion. This comprehensive package, valued at SEK 13.3 billion

($1.2 billion), includes, for the first time, two Saab 340 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft (otherwise known as ASC 890), which, experts say, will significantly improve Ukraine’s capability to spot long-range threats on the ground, at sea, and in the air. This aircraft is designed for missions similar to the ones of esteemed airplane such as US Air Force Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS, except that it has a non-movable PS-890 AESA radar. It offers lower drag, but has a dead zone directly behind and in front of the plane, with a 120 degree zone of scan on either side of the airframe. But, experts say, that’s not a problem.

Incidentally, the aggressor country, the Russian Federation has long had this type of aircraft in its inventory. This is about the A-50, three of which have been destroyed by the Ukrainian military - two in the air and one in a hangar. However, according to experts, the Swedish machines are superior in many aspects to their Russian counterparts.

This article provides an insight into what these "birds" are capable of and in what way they can contribute to Ukraine’s capability to defend itself.


ASC 890 (Airborne Surveillance and Control) is an airborne combat control and aerial surveillance aircraft. Based on the Saab 340 platform, it is fitted out with a long radar antenna on the "roof". In addition to Sweden, other operators of such platforms include Thailand and Poland.

The Saab 340 is powered by two General Electric CT7 turboprop engines rated at 1,800 horsepower each. It has general characteristics as follows:

Crew: 6

Length: 20.57 m (67 ft 6 in)

Wingspan: 21.44 m (70 ft 4 in)

Height: 6.97 m (22 ft 10 in)

Empty weight: 10,300 kg (22,707 lb) [21]

Gross weight: 13,155 kg (29,000 lb)

Powerplant: 2 × General Electric CT7-9B , 1,390 kW (1,870 hp) each


Max speed: 502-524 kmh (312-325.6 mph)

Endurance: 5-7 h

Service ceiling: 7.62 km (4.73 m)

The price of the ASC 890 aircraft has never been made public, but Poland, in 2023, signed a contract to buy two Swedish airborne early warning and control Saab 340 AEW-300 planes for approximately 600 million Swedish crowns ($57.81 million), including on-ground service and maintenancepackage. So it can be assumed that one aircraft sold with a full package of maintenance services can cost USD 29 million.  


When comparing specifications of the radar systems seen on Russia’s A-50 and now Ukraine’s ASC 890 platforms, they are generally identical: both provide a detection range of approximately 300 kilometers. 

However, it should be taken into account that A-50s are much older and are no longer produced by Russia (although there were isolated attempts to modernize and update them to the A-50U standard), while Sweden has regularly modernized the radar system on the Saab 340.

• Analysts also note that the Swedish Saab is easier to take off than the Russian A-50, which was developed based on the Il-76 transport aircraft platform.

• ASC 890 can stay airborne for 5-7 hours, which is longer endurance than that of the A-50.


Weapons of win

ASC 890 – Aerial Surveillance and Control Aircraft

The government of Sweden has announced the intention to boost Ukraine’s air defense capability with two ASC 890 aerial surveillance and control aircraft. 

The aerial early warning and control aircraft ASC 890 (otherwise known as Saab 340 AEW&C) was developed based on the Saab 340 platform

Manufacturer: Saab (Sweden)

In service since 1997

Operators: Swedish Air Force (two aircraft); Royal Thai Air Force (two aircraft); Polish Air Force (one aircraft)

Former operators: Hellenic Air Force; United Arab Emirates Air Force

The ASC 890 hosts a non-movable PS-890 AESA radar. It offers lower drag, but has a dead zone directly behind and in front of the plane, with a 120 degree zone of scan on either side of the airframe.

Length of the antenna container: 9 m

Mass of the antenna system: 900 kg

Height: 6.97 m

Take-off mass: 13.555 kg

Cruising speed: 528 kmh

Max range: 1.450 km

Endurance: up to 7 h

Service ceiling: up to 7.620 m

The ASC 890 is capable of tracking targets within a range of up to 450 km  

It can monitor and area of 500,000+ square kilometers in range and 18,200 meters in altitude.

However, what makes an AEW& aircraft capable of its key mission is its long-range radar & antenna system.

The Russians are claiming that their A-50U platform is capable of tracking bomber aircraft at 650 kilometers (403.9 miles) away, fighter jets at 300 kilometers (186.4 miles) away, and cruise missiles at 215 kilometers (133.6 miles) away. But whatever the Russians claim, they are cowering to use these platforms after Ukraine had taken out two such planes, one over the Sea of ​​Azov and the other over the ground in Russia’s Krasnodar region.

The ASC 890, according to its stated specifications, can, under favorable conditions, track aircraft, helicopters, missiles, strike and reconnaissance drones at distances of up to 450 kilometers (280 miles).

Another advantage the Swedish aircraft has over the A-50U is its potential integration into the Link 16 information exchange system seen on lots of Western aerial and ground platforms. The F-16s, which are likely to arrive in Ukraine very soon, can connect to this system and receive information from the radar, which will significantly improve their combat capabilities.


Valery Romanenko, an aviation expert and leading researcher at the State Aviation Museum, calls the transfer of such aircraft a revolutionary event: "Finally, we will obtain a full-fledged European air defense system, such as in most countries in the world. We were the only one of the European countries (except Belarus, which is under Russian surveillance) that did not have aerial radar reconnaissance and control capabilities of its own."

American AWACS aircraft make up the basis of NATO’s air defense shield. From above, they see everything, and until recently we, before receiving these Swedish planes, had to detect targets, cruise missiles, Shahed UAVs using ground radars only.

"Enemy weapons can hide behind terrain features, fly over river valleys, and so we cannot guarantee a high level of destruction of the munitions flying toward our infrastructures and cities, because we do not monitor them continuously, but see them from time to time. But this capability is going to change dramatically the situation in the air," says Romanenko.

According to the expert, the use of these radar surveillance planes gives us parity with the Russians.

"Whereas the Russians used flying radars and peered deep into our territory, and could use these platforms to control the actions of their aviation and air defense systems, then now we as well have such a capability, and it is no worse than that of the Russians. With the arrival of F-16 fighters (which will work in concert with the Saab 340), our air defense capabilities against aerodynamic targets, helicopters, cruise missiles will increase. We will be able to shoot down more than 95 per cent of the detected targets, except ballistic targets, against which they are ineffective”, the analyst further noted.

Regarding F-16 fighter jets…

"The F-16 pilot will see on the screen of tactical situation display which target to fly to, at what distance, which weapon to use and how best to approach the target using active or passive systems. For example, with passive ones, one can sneak up on an enemy fighter plane so that its pilot won't even see the approaching threat," Valery Romanenko explains.

As mentioned above, radar data is transmitted via the Link 16 tactical network, which is used by the US and NATO countries. This communication, navigation and identification system supports the exchange of data between the commanding staff, aircraft, ships and ground forces at ultra-high frequency.

Speaking hypothetically, information from Link 16 on the ASC 890 aircraft is transmitted to the fighter plane, from it to the missile and so it will go on. This cannot be done with Ukrainian MiGs, but it is possible with the F-16.

With the arrival of F-16 fighter jets, which will work in tandem with the ASC 890, our air defense capabilities against aerodynamic targets, helicopters, cruise missiles, Shahed UAVs will increase
With the arrival of F-16 fighter jets, which will work in tandem with the ASC 890, our air defense capabilities against aerodynamic targets, helicopters, cruise missiles, Shahed UAVs will increase

With the arrival of F-16 fighter jets, which will work in tandem with the ASC 890, our air defense capabilities against aerodynamic targets, helicopters, cruise missiles, Shahed UAVs will increase...

Moreover, targeting data can be received not only by combat aircraft, but by almost anything - ATACMS missiles (launched from HIMARS MLRS, - ed.), Storm Shadow munitions, ground-based air defense systems and any of missile weapons.

"Swedish AEW&C aircraft are versatile platforms, allowing control not only of anti-aircraft systems and air defense assets overall, but Electronic Warfare systems as well," Valery Romanenko says.

Oleksandr Kovalenko, a military analyst at the Information Resistance group adds his comment on the value of the AEW&C capability for Ukraine: "AWACS are much wanted by Ukraine, as they will increase the effectiveness of the F-16. The fact is that the F-16 aircraft that will be transferred to Ukraine are not the latest modifications. To ensure they are used with maximum effectiveness and efficiency on the battlefield, they need to be augmented by an advanced radar capability."

Ukrainian F-16s will come not equipped with such a radar. Therefore, in order to make the most effective use of weapons such as AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, for example, at ranges of up to 100 plus kilometers, they need support.

"The range of the ASC-890, depending on the equipment installed, can reach 500 km or longer. This will make it possible to use them, for example, in Western airspace or over Ukraine’s central regions to support the F-16 missions in Eastern Ukraine," the expert added.

When there was talk about the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine, a difficult issue often arose, more specifically, how these planes would be used: "Because in the South, in the airspace of Romania, an American AWACS would be operating, or, for example, over Bulgaria, or in the airspace over the neutral waters of the Black Sea, perhaps even in the airspace of Moldova. From out there, AWACS would support the F-16 missions over the Crimea Peninsula, the Kherson region, in the Azov Sea region. But how to provide such support for missions over Eastern Ukraine? To this end, the American plane would have to fly into the airspace of Ukraine, which will be impossible to do. So, from now on, Ukraine will have ASC-890 aircraft, which will significantly increase the effectiveness of the F-16 missions in the East of Ukraine, will give the Armed Forces the capability to engage both aerial and ground targets in the area," says Oleksandr Kovalenko.

And this is how Mykhailo Samus, director of the New Geopolitics Research Network assesses the value of this new addition to Ukraine’s air defense capability: "Indeed, not only the Air Force will benefit from this (transfer of ASC-890 to Ukraine, - Ed.). That’s to say, the provision of real time targeting data on targets at 500 kilometers away will be gainful for all of the Armed Forces -- our Missile Forces, aviation, anti-aircraft missile systems...".

The expert emphasizes that this is a highly technological radar surveillance capability that not everyone has: "I think this is very bad news for the Russians. They have always maintained their advantage over us due to the A-50 aircraft and the appropriate capabilities of their aviation and missile forces. We are getting close to breaking even."

Needless to say, a lot will depend on our partners, on whether we will be able to withstand it in terms of resources, but the fact is the fact: this is a breakthrough from the point of view of ensuring combat capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces at many levels.

"This will significantly increase the effectiveness of the F-16 airplane not just as a platform, but as a highly accurate, highly technological tool that will be able to immediately receive much more targeting information and data supporting the use of any weapon system. The political decision regarding the use of Western-supplied armaments against targets outside of Ukraine’s sovereign territory will fall precisely into the same "pocket", Mykhailo Samus believes.

While on the subject, more than 10 countries have already permitted Ukraine to use their donated weapons against targets inside Russia. These are the heavyweights such as the United Kingdom, France, as well as the USA and Germany. The latter two, however, granted the permission with a restriction that the weapons they supplied can only be used for attacks on along-the-border areas, and the USA prohibited strikes with the ATACMS missiles it supplied to Ukraine. But that’s okay, the ice is melting, little by little...

Here let's return to the ASC-890, because it is worth paying attention to one more important aspect. According to Igor Romanenko, a military expert and retired lieutenant general, these aircraft will expand our capabilities at sea as well: "Russia's Black Sea Fleet has already been moved somewhere away from this water area. We must continue suppressing Russian capabilities – at sea, in the air, and in all of Crimea."

The most important question now is when these planes will arrive.

The timeline rests on how quickly personnel can be trained. The Saab 340 plane is not something new to Ukraine. Civil versions were used by the Motor Sich airline among others, Valery Romanenko notes.

"The announcement about the transfer of ASC 890 airplanes from Sweden marks the beginning of preparations for the deliveries. Training pilots for such aircraft can take approximately 2-3 months, because we already have many pilots with an experience of flying on the Saab 340. As for the operational crew, combat control officers, it will probably suffice to retrain the operators of the ground systems. It may take 3-4 months," the aviation expert said in conclusion.

Myroslav Liskovych, Kyiv

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